THE PITY PARTY

8TH GRADE IN THE LIFE OF ME, CASS

Cass, the quirky, self-confident girl who appeared in Pollet’s earlier Nobody Was Here (2004), about prep school life in the mid-1980s, is trying in eighth grade to sort out who she really is: orphaned child; invincible girl; third wheel? She’s discovering that at 13 things start clanging around in disharmonious earnest. The garrulous boy seated behind Cass in English class seems to voice some of this turmoil. Rod is bold and not at all perfect, but their friendship is a gift, and his abrupt departure challenges Cass to try to find her own missing pieces. Pollet steers a neat and relatively innocent course through the troubled and murky waters of middle school. Readers will recognize Cass’s lack of perspective and experience as their own, and there are moments enough of genuine warmth and humor that they will care what happens to her. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-439-68194-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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WILL YOU, WON’T YOU?

This is a less-than-riveting novel about a 13-year-old trying to decide who she is. Madeline, Mad for short, lets her fears rule her actions and is intimidated by the two very strong-willed women close to her. Her mother is an attorney and her grandmother is chair of the Senate Finance committee in the rural East Coast. Mad just wants to be invisible. She is sent to her grandmother’s for the summer to relax and ride her beloved horse, Cloud. Throughout the season Mad learns much about politics as her grandmother is caught in the controversial debate surrounding clear-cutting, but more importantly she discovers Scottish dance. Terrified during her first class, Mad progresses rapidly and learns to love the complicated steps and nuances of partnering. Meanwhile, she is trying to devise a way to help Cloud over his newfound fear of cows. The sub-theme throughout is her desire to impress the father she has never met. Her confidence grows in direct relation to her ability to dance, and to her amazement she speaks out at a heated political meeting. Senatorial details and the intricacies of Scottish dance steps bog down the story. Haas (Hurry, p. 714, etc.) links life to dance, and dance to horse riding, in a clumsy way, but by the end Mad begins to understand and like herself. This book will be of some interest to girls who enjoy stories with an equestrian element. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-029196-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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