MIDNIGHT REYNOLDS AND THE SPECTRAL TRANSFORMER

Midnight Reynolds has always felt like an outsider: from her unusual name and her family’s poverty to her obsessive reliance on spreadsheets to keep her life organized.

When Midnight moves to a new town and becomes friends with the two most popular girls in school, she finally feels welcome. The only problem: the 12-year-old white girl’s privileged new friends like to shop, and they’ll likely dump Midnight if they find out she’s broke. Midnight gets a job assisting sweet Miss Appleby. But Miss Appleby doesn’t need help with household chores; the middle-aged white woman wants Midnight to help her hunt ghosts. Because she was born at midnight on Oct. 31, Midnight has a supernatural gift: she can see ghosts—spectral energy. When someone dies, their spectral energy passes to the Afterglow, but an insidious phenomenon called a black stream is transferring the energy to inanimate objects. Armed with a device called a spectral transformer, Midnight retrieves the trapped energy so it can be safely disposed of. The job isn’t as straightforward as it seems, and Midnight soon faces a problem even the most sophisticated spreadsheet can’t fix. Hunting and trapping spectral energy fills the highly likable Midnight with a sense of pride and bravado she’s never felt before, easing her struggles to fit in at school and to cope with her mother’s impending remarriage.

Old-fashioned spooky fun. (Supernatural mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5125-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has some standards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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