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

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A treat to be savored—and a lesson learned—any time of year.

LOVE MONSTER AND THE LAST CHOCOLATE

From the Love Monster series

The surprised recipient of a box of chocolates agonizes over whether to eat the whole box himself or share with his friends.

Love Monster is a chocoholic, so when he discovers the box on his doorstep, his mouth waters just thinking about what might be inside; his favorite’s a double chocolate strawberry swirl. The brief thought that he should share these treats with his friends is easily rationalized away. Maybe there won’t be enough for everyone, perhaps someone will eat his favorite, or, even worse, leave him with his least favorite: the coffee one! Bright’s pacing and tone are on target throughout, her words conveying to readers exactly what the monster is thinking and feeling: “So he went into his house. And so did the box of chocolates…without a whisper of a word to anyone.” This is followed by a “queasy-squeezy” feeling akin to guilt and then by a full-tilt run to his friends, chocolates in hand, and a breathless, stream-of-consciousness confession, only to be brought up short by what’s actually in the box. And the moral is just right: “You see, sometimes it’s when you stop to think of others…that you start to find out just how much they think of you.” Monster’s wide eyes and toothy mouth convey his emotions wonderfully, and the simple backgrounds keep the focus on his struggle.

A treat to be savored—and a lesson learned—any time of year. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-00-754030-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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