SUMMERLOST

A year after losing two family members, a girl spends the summer in a small town with a Shakespeare festival.

Mom buys a summer house for herself, 12-year-old Cedar, and 8-year-old Miles in Iron Creek, where Mom grew up. It’s been a year since a drunk driver killed Cedar’s father and other little brother, Ben. As Cedar gets a job selling concessions at the Shakespeare festival, makes a friend named Leo, and finds herself and Miles obsessed with a morbid soap-opera arc on TV, Condie touches everything lightly but deftly with the family’s grief. Leo and Cedar research—and give unauthorized tours about—a long-dead, famous actress from the town; Cedar’s pulled by that research because she knows, now, that things can disappear forever. Ben was disabled (maybe autistic), and their relationship was sometimes difficult. Her relationship with Miles is stolid and understatedly touching. Details are careful and never extraneous; there’s a reason it matters, at a certain moment, that “the milk was perfectly cold and the bananas not too ripe” in a bowl of cereal. Despite indicating that Cedar bonds with Leo because they’re both outsiders—she as a biracial Chinese-American, he for vaguer reasons—an explanation for their friendship isn’t necessary. Although Cedar's narration as a character of color is largely convincing, white is still the default for other characters unless otherwise specified. There’s no monumental grief breakthrough, nor should there be: this is the realistic going on, day by day, after bereavement.

Honest, lovely, and sad. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18719-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

more