Fellow writers will understand Autumn’s quest, but others may not find her tale as compelling.

WRITE THIS DOWN

Autumn is a writer, and although she’s just 12, she is fully ready to be published—or so she thinks.

She’s midway through writing her first fantasy novel, but it’s her realistic writing that finally gets her the attention she craves. Life is made complicated by her disintegrating relationship with her previously loving older brother, Hunter. Since starting 10th grade, he’s become downright mean, even reading aloud to members of his rock band the love poem Autumn composed to her serious crush, enigmatic Cameron—in front of Cameron’s older brother. Autumn seeks revenge, first composing a scathing and untrue review of his band’s performance but then submitting to an essay contest a description of what Hunter used to mean to her contrasted against his recent behavior. Although many of the embarrassing situations she endures will be uncomfortably familiar to readers—especially her uncertain encounters with her crush—Autumn only achieves real likability near the end of this tame outing. Her narrative voice is fully believable but lacks the amiability that would elevate her to admirable or charming. Her parents’ earnest attempts to fix Hunter’s problems add a subplot of mild frustration. In the absence of racial or ethnic markers, readers are likely to see Autumn and her family as white.

Fellow writers will understand Autumn’s quest, but others may not find her tale as compelling. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30164-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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THE BAD BEGINNING

The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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A typical Patterson plot significantly elevated by its title character.

JACKY HA-HA

A precocious seventh-grader tries to turn over a new leaf and end her term as the class clown.

It’s New Jersey, 1990, and Jacky Hart is the middle child in a family with six other girls. Attention is hard to come by, but Jacky has earned her fair share by being the endlessly funny member of her large, white family. Unfortunately, Jacky’s teachers do not appreciate this goofball attitude. Jacky joins the school play to channel her talents creatively and discovers a passion for performing, but not all is well. Jacky's mother is overseas as a citizen soldier in the run-up to the first Gulf War, and her lifeguard father is spending way too much time with an attractive female fellow lifeguard. A lot of other things happen too, but this is typical for Patterson. His novels are made or broken not by their plots but by their lead characters, and Jacky is the best yet. Fun, smart, emotionally engaging, Jacky is a character that young readers will love spending time with. Sure, the novel could lose about 100 pages and still tell the same story, but Jacky and her sisters are so endearing readers won't feel the effects of the chubby second and third acts until long after finishing the book, and few will really care. Pop-culture references from the ’90s and the 2010s (for comparison) abound.

A typical Patterson plot significantly elevated by its title character. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-26249-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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