A well-written tale for tweens that may spark conversations about dealing with crucial changes.

UNTIL THE OCEAN FREEZES

A preteen navigates the big and small challenges of life in this debut novel.

Lizzy Zander stands on the doorstep of a whole new life after her family relocates from New Jersey to New York City. Although Lizzy knows the move to the city is the best thing for her dad, who is living with multiple sclerosis, she can’t help worrying that she’ll never fit in. Things start to look up when Lizzy becomes friends with Cassie, a fellow swimmer who lives in the building next door. Cassie introduces Lizzie to new friends and includes her in a secret club. As a different world of people and places opens up to Lizzie, she must deal with all the complicated feelings that come with big life changes. She is worried about starting a new school and deeply misses her old friends in New Jersey. Most confusing of all, she is both troubled and embarrassed by her dad’s deteriorating health. Clemans does an excellent job tackling the issues, both large and small, and the accompanying range of emotions that Lizzy is facing. The author handles Lizzy’s very real feelings about her dad’s disease with great care while deftly portraying the other hurdles, such as peer pressure and fitting in, that make up the daily lives of most adolescents. The author’s narrative, particularly appropriate for tweens who are struggling with upheavals in their lives or families, also features a diverse cast of characters. Lizzy, with pale skin and freckles, envies Cassie’s “gorgeous skin…like coffee ice cream.” Funny emails from Lizzy to her friends back in New Jersey and sweet sketches help provide a window into the girl’s world.

A well-written tale for tweens that may spark conversations about dealing with crucial changes.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-08-173141-0

Page Count: 183

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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