Mostly accomplishes its feel-good goals

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THE RECKLESS CLUB

Vrabel’s latest middle-grade novel explicitly remixes John Hughes’ iconic 1985 movie, The Breakfast Club, for the Instagram generation.

Five eighth-graders report for all-day detention for pranks they committed on the last day of middle school. Each comes from a different clique: Jason, an artistic white “Nobody”; Lilith, a talented Indian-American “Drama Queen”; Rex, an emo white “Rebel”; Wes, a charismatic African-American “Flirt”; and Ally, a high-achieving white “Athlete.” They gather at an assisted-living home, where their strict principal introduces them to his sister, who runs the facility. The students are then each paired with a resident at the home, and they are also assigned an essay, to be completed by the end of the day. As in the film, these five teenagers who believe they have nothing in common bond over the course of the day as they open up and reveal their struggles: divorce, poverty, racism, bullying. And, similar to the film, the novel ends with a jointly written essay (“But after today, we just see each other. And we’re going to change things, make them better, starting now”) signed “The Reckless Club.” The third-person narration mostly alternates among Jason, Lilith, and Wes, with Ally’s and Rex’s perspectives much later. The novel is tender, and it goes where Hughes’ film never could have with its multicultural cast, but it’s slow to start and cannot escape a preachy feel as the kids open up.

Mostly accomplishes its feel-good goals . (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9040-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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