A slight but engaging fantasy wilts under the burden of religious allegory. Julia and Peter, two teenage siblings in an oddly atemporal Oxford, are whisked into the alternate land of Aedyn and tasked with freeing those enslaved by a brutal trio of sorcerors. While the prose is competent and some of the imagery lovely, the narrative relies on an uninspired retread of generic fantasy tropes. Characterization rarely rises above gender essentialism and heavy-handed symbolism: Peter, representing “Science,” is clever and well-meaning but also smug, untrustworthy and led astray by blind naturalism; Julia, as “Faith,” in contrast, is compassionate, imaginative and open-minded, if prone to leaping to conclusions. The villains are bullies and buffoons, with no function beyond being Evil. Between overtly telegraphing Good Guys and Bad Guys and dropping in wildly convenient magical powers and overheard bits of exposition, the plot carefully defuses any hint of suspense. By the point the rebels stage a blatant appropriation of Passover, all pretense at subtlety is discarded. Pleasing, perhaps, for its target audience, but they deserve better; Narnia this ain’t. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-310-71812-3

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.


In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.


A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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This tale of a diverse friendship tackles hard topics.


An after-school South Asian cooking class sparks an unlikely friendship.

Pakistani American sixth grader Sara is sick of cooking. It’s bad enough that the demands of her mother’s catering business fill Sara’s free time. But when her mother starts teaching a South Asian cuisine class at Poplar Springs Middle School, the school Sara transfers to from her beloved Islamic school, Iqra Academy, she’s forced not only to watch her mother cook, but also to watch her new, xenophobic classmates balk at Sara’s favorite spices. Elizabeth, on the other hand, loves cooking—perhaps because her English-immigrant mother, who suffers from depression, and her American-born father, who is always traveling, never seem to find the time to make proper meals. When Elizabeth is paired with Sara, the two of them form a friendship—until Elizabeth’s best friend’s racism threatens to separate them just when they need each other most. Writing in alternating voices, the authors elegantly interweave issues of racism, financial insecurity, and mental illness into a familiar middle school narrative of identity formation. Sara’s character is particularly well drawn: Her affectionate family, her insistence on Elizabeth’s responsibility to stand up to her white, racist friends, and her love of her culture and religion are refreshingly authentic. Elizabeth’s mostly secular Jewish family life will also ring familiar to many readers. At times, however, the narration verges on preachy, and the dialogue feels more mature than the average sixth grade banter.

This tale of a diverse friendship tackles hard topics. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-11668-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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