WHAT HAPPENED TO RACHEL RILEY?

A useful addition to the pool of middle-grade books about sexual harassment at school.

How did the most popular girl in school become persona non grata?

New kid and aspiring podcaster Anna Hunt could have taken the easy route for her social issues assignment about any subject that was important to her. But somehow Anna always comes back to the question, “What happened to Rachel Riley?” Does it have anything to do with the mysterious game the boys have been playing? Anna’s investigation unfolds in emails, text threads, personal narratives, articles, and voice recordings as she asks difficult questions, struggles to make friends, and questions how and if the world can change for the better. Ultimately, Anna’s un-essay explores sexual harassment between middle school peers, specifically boys giving each other points for slapping girls’ butts and snapping their bra straps. As in Barbara Dee’s Maybe He Just Likes You (2019), there’s social pressure to stay silent and laugh it all off as a joke. Given the central focus on teasing apart this issue, it’s understandable that many of the characters lack depth. Anna’s mother emigrated from Poland, and Anna is bilingual; some supporting characters have names that point to non-European heritage. With its highlighting of fun and educational facts, the writing style and subject matter make this a good fit for classroom or book club reading and discussion.

A useful addition to the pool of middle-grade books about sexual harassment at school. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-321309-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

MILLIONAIRES FOR THE MONTH

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable.

A reward of $5,000,000 almost ruins everything for two seventh graders.

On a class trip to New York City, Felix and Benji find a wallet belonging to social media billionaire Laura Friendly. Benji, a well-off, chaotic kid with learning disabilities, swipes $20 from the wallet before they send it back to its owner. Felix, a poor, shy, rule-follower, reluctantly consents. So when Laura Friendly herself arrives to give them a reward for the returned wallet, she’s annoyed. To teach her larcenous helpers a lesson, Laura offers them a deal: a $20,000 college scholarship or slightly over $5 million cash—but with strings attached. The boys must spend all the money in 30 days, with legal stipulations preventing them from giving anything away, investing, or telling anyone about it. The glorious windfall quickly grows to become a chore and then a torment as the boys appear increasingly selfish and irresponsible to the adults in their lives. They rent luxury cars, hire a (wonderful) philosophy undergrad as a chauffeur, take their families to Disney World, and spend thousands on in-app game purchases. Yet, surrounded by hedonistically described piles of loot and filthy lucre, the boys long for simpler fundamentals. The absorbing spending spree reads like a fun family film, gleefully stuffed with the very opulence it warns against. Major characters are White.

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable. (mathematical explanations) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17525-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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