While the plot revolves around Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, this story is far from one

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A sweet story of young love amid middle school theatrics.

Matilda, who goes by Mattie, is an exceptionally thoughtful white teen who at times drives her closest friends nuts with her uncertainty and need for time to think. However, her pensiveness serves her well as the whole eighth grade, under the guidance of her favorite teacher, Mr. Torres, sets out to stage a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Mattie truly connects with the play, so when the male lead is injured and backs out of the production, she is a natural choice for assuming the trousers role as Romeo. The only potential problem is her nerves, since she has begun to develop more-than-friends feelings for her Juliet, the charismatic white English transplant Gemma. Mattie’s genuine inflections and stream-of-consciousness narrative resonate well with the early-adolescent experience. Mattie is fortunate to have a very supportive family, loyal friends, and a mentor teacher as well as diverse classmates that are perhaps more tolerant than most middle schoolers realistically are. This idealized, benevolent society lends a very rosy tinge to a tale of questioning one’s burgeoning sexuality, which may feel false to some older or more jaded readers. Nevertheless, readers cannot help but root for Mattie as she discovers bravery she never gave herself credit for, both onstage and in life.

While the plot revolves around Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, this story is far from one . (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7848-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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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

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