An imaginative example of fantasy done right.

READ REVIEW

THE VISITOR'S CHOICE

A SEARCH TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT

With just the turn of a page, a boy is transported to new worlds in this fantastic middle-grade novel.

David Wilson is your average teenage boy. He’d much rather play sports with his friends than read, and he actively avoids his squabbling parents. When it’s decided he’s going to stay with a family friend, Mr. Linden, for summer break in lieu of going on vacation with his parents, David is, to say the least, unhappy. Resigning himself to three whole months of boredom, he discovers Mr. Linden’s library. As he pokes around, he is suddenly transported, via a red book from the shelf, into the strange kingdom of Ethelrod. There, the angry king, distrustful of outsiders, subjects David to a series of tests. Using his resourceful nature and a bit of humor, David beats the king at his own game, luckily making it back to Mr. Linden’s house unscathed. After Mr. Linden’s daughter, Hannah, shows up for an unexpected visit, she and David journey into his fictional kingdom, but this time, Hannah doesn’t make it back to her father’s library when the adventure is over. David and Mr. Linden are forced to work together to locate Hannah, learning many secrets along the way. As with David, it’s easy to get caught up in this work. Davidson (What A hodgepodge!, 2013, etc.) is an educator and reading specialist, which explains why he is such a gifted writer: Aside from his technical prowess, Davidson’s imagination and page-turning pacing help make this book stand out. David is a relatable character for adventurous young readers who might find it difficult to dive into school and reading, and the work obviously champions books as vehicles (literally and figuratively) into other worlds. With well-rounded characters and plenty of drama, this fun read will even appeal to read-along parents. It’d make an outstanding cornerstone for a new series, too, and readers are sure to look forward to whatever adventure David comes to next.

An imaginative example of fantasy done right.

Pub Date: April 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1938326301

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Ferne Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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