A weak plot, underdeveloped characters, and the hint of a next book sum up this not-so-deep series opener.

THE DARKDEEP

From the Darkdeep series , Vol. 1

Four pop-culture–steeped middle schoolers discover a portal to…something off the Washington coast.

When Nico falls over a cliff into Still Cove, he surfaces in a cave that leads to an ancient houseboat. After his friends Tyler, Emma, and Opal come to rescue him, they investigate the elaborately furnished, abandoned boat and discover a spiral staircase down to a shadowy, whirling water portal the kids call the Darkdeep. When Emma experimentally touches the water, she is swallowed up, only to be regurgitated minutes later. This strange process releases familiar apparitions, or figments, seemingly plucked from their childhood memories, that all four kids can see. The foursome can’t seem to stop jumping through the Darkdeep to see what apparitions they can conjure up, including Smurfs, Godzilla, Minions, an extraterrestrial Visitor, and various other imaginary creatures. Inevitably, these beings take on more solid form, become violent, and, for an unknown reason, leave Still Cove and head for town. These shenanigans play out against a backdrop of the town’s economic distress after timber-industry layoffs; subplots include Opal’s needy desire for male attention, the enduring enmity of the school bully, and the upcoming radish festival. Too many storylines dilute any sense of intrigue. Characters are identified by salient features—Tyler’s dark skin, Opal’s long, black hair, Emma’s blue eyes—a device that does not disrupt the white default.

A weak plot, underdeveloped characters, and the hint of a next book sum up this not-so-deep series opener. (Paranormal suspense. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0046-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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