An occasionally muddled, overambitious foray into an X-Men–like universe.

Reject High

Kids the system has given up on acquire power of their own in Thompson’s (The Anarchists, 2012, etc.) YA debut sci-fi thriller, the first in a series set among students at an alternative high school.

Jason Champion suffers from ADHD and rage blackouts. After he breaks a student’s jaw in a fight he doesn’t remember, he lands at Regional Education and Guidance Collective Training high school for the last two weeks of his freshman year. R.E.G.C.T., colloquially known as “Reject High,” is a dumping ground for students the district would prefer to forget; having just reopened after a student’s on-site suicide, the school’s slated for demolition during the summer. Jason strikes up a friendship with goth girl Rhapsody Lowe. While playing hooky in the same restroom where Cherish Watkins killed herself, they’re almost caught by an armed Student Resource officer who patrols the halls. In fact, they should have been caught—Jason knows the cop looked right at him but didn’t seem to see him. Mystified, he grills Rhapsody as they serve detention together for kissing in the cafeteria. She reveals that she has powers of invisibility, thanks to a bright green crystal found in the school’s basement. When she gives Jason a prism made of the same material, he develops powers of his own: superhuman strength and incredible jumping ability. Soon, they’re pursued by unknown adversaries who want to protect “the source.” Thompson attempts to address serious issues, such as mental illness, bullying and victim-blaming (Jason’s love interest, Sasha, was kicked out of her previous school because a boyfriend taped them having sex and circulated it online), but the book’s overextended breadth doesn’t suit the story well. However, once the superpowers and villainous conspiracies show up, these topics fade into the background in favor of chase scenes and portentous bad-guy speeches. Still, it’s refreshing to read a YA novel with main characters of color whose race isn’t the focus. Though little is wrapped up in this entry in the series, potential remains for later books to better develop the lore of the strange crystals.

An occasionally muddled, overambitious foray into an X-Men–like universe.

Pub Date: June 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989105606

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Great Nation Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

I AM NOT GOING TO GET UP TODAY!

After an eight-year interval, a Beginner Book by this well-loved originator of the series is welcome; and since Seuss hasn't chosen to illustrate it himself, we are lucky to have Stevenson as alternate. In the familiar Seuss pattern of a simple premise exaggerated to comic effect, a boy declares, "My bed is warm. My pillow's deep. Today's the day I'm going to sleep"—regardless of his mother, various arguments, successive waves of reinforcements, including the Marines, and a TV crew filming the momentous event. Actually, the development of the idea is a little tame compared with Seuss' other extravaganzas (and such determined all-day slumber is more the province of teen-agers and the good doctor's contemporaries than of readers at this level); but the book is delightfully enlivened by Stevenson's vigorous illustrations, which considerably augment the text by showing the full extent of the consternation caused by the hero's stubborness. Though there is plenty of the repetition required by learning readers, there are also some unusual words like Memphis, suggesting that this is not the easiest easy reader; but it has enough appeal to keep beginners entertained.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1987

ISBN: 0394892178

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1987

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more