An intriguing mystery embedded within a richly insightful coming-of-age story.

READ REVIEW

TORNADO BRAIN

For tornado-focused seventh grader Frankie, “Manners seem like wrapping words in cotton balls.”

She’s known since fourth grade that she isn’t like other kids. Frankie’s bothered by scratchy clothes, being touched, socializing, change, being different from her twin, Tess, but probably most of all by the end of her only friendship—with Colette, whom she’s known since kindergarten. Now Colette has disappeared, and it seems that Frankie was the last person who saw her, but their final contact wasn’t a positive one. Colette had turned up unexpectedly and wanted the special notebook that she, Tess, and Frankie had used to document their yearslong game, “dare-or-scare.” The police are dismissive of Frankie’s realization that after Colette went missing, she posted videos of new “dares.” Frankie uses the clues in the videos to launch a search. Tess assists, in the process helping to heal their battered sisterly relationship. Frankie’s first-person narration is spot-on as she describes her feelings about her attention-deficit and sensory-processing disorders and her Asperger’s syndrome as well as her distaste for the medications that impair her thinking. Her confusion with her own unexpected emotions as she falls for skateboarder Kai—who’s just as smitten with her—is poignant. Although all doesn’t end well, this moving account of Frankie’s emerging maturity—with extra challenges—is perfect. Colette, Frankie, and Frankie’s family seem to be white; it’s suggested that Kai is a boy of color.

An intriguing mystery embedded within a richly insightful coming-of-age story. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1531-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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