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Many of the complications of human behavior are on display here, some of them painful to navigate.

Two authors combine their efforts to relate the intertwined tales of a pair of young teens in trouble.

Sierra’s first-person voice spills out of the pages in verse. With her alcoholic mother serving time in jail, she’s placed in the home of a loving, well-to-do interracial couple, Anne and Carl, whose daughter died years before. Lauren lives right next door. Her older, autistic brother has recently been enrolled at a therapeutic boarding school, and she’s deeply resentful of her parents’ well-meaning (if distancing) handling of his issues. In response, she decides to raise money to treat less-wealthy kids with autism, an outstanding intent followed by poor management. First, she sells expensive gifts she’s received. She also begins to steal her parents’ things to sell, but after getting caught, she moves on to the belongings of friends and neighbors as well as to shoplifting. Unfortunately, she implicates Sierra, whom she’s tenderly befriended, in her activities by storing the proceeds in Anne and Carl’s deceased child’s bedroom. Lauren’s more complicated and disturbing tale is related in her first-person prose narrative, the two writing styles clearly delineating the two white seventh-graders. Sierra emerges the more sympathetic of the pair, with Lauren’s unattractive behavior (or compulsion) never fully understandable, perhaps even to her.

Many of the complications of human behavior are on display here, some of them painful to navigate. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2864-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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

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A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes.

A gaggle of eighth graders find the coolest clubhouse ever.

Fulfilling the fantasies of anyone who’s ever constructed a fort in their bedroom or elsewhere, Korman hands his five middle schoolers a fully stocked bomb shelter constructed decades ago in the local woods by an eccentric tycoon and lost until a hurricane exposes the entrance. So, how to keep the hideout secret from interfering grown-ups—and, more particularly, from scary teen psychopath Jaeger Devlin? The challenge is tougher still when everyone in the central cast is saddled with something: C.J. struggles to hide injuries inflicted by the unstable stepdad his likewise abused mother persists in enabling; Jason is both caught in the middle of a vicious divorce and unable to stand up to his controlling girlfriend; Evan is not only abandoned by drug-abusing parents, but sees his big brother going to the bad thanks to Jaeger’s influence; Mitchell struggles with OCD–fueled anxieties and superstitions; and so forth. How to keep a story overtaxed with issues and conflicts from turning into a dreary slog? Spoiler alert: Neither the author nor his characters ultimately prove equal to the challenge. With the possible exception of Ricky Molina, one of the multiple narrators, everyone seems to be White.

A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-62914-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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