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

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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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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