BEYOND THE CHOCOLATE WAR

It's been over ten years since The Chocolate War (1974), but the action in this sequel takes place only a few months after the original ugly doings at Trinity High—a boys' day school in drab mid-New England. The Vigils, the secret society headed by cold, manipulative senior Archie Costello, is still going strong. Brother Leon, the slimy teacher who has become Archie's quasi-partner in dictatorial evil, is now the Headmaster. And the one student who stood up to Archie in The Chocolate War—Jerry Renault—is at home, still recuperating from the physical/psychic damage of his doomed attempt at individualistic defiance. As the end of the school year approaches, however, two of Archie's longtime student-henchmen will become increasingly disaffected, secretly rebellious. Carter, clumsy super-jock and Vigils "president," is horrified by Archie's latest scheme—a plan to humiliate both Brother Leon and the Bishop (!) during an upcoming assembly; so he sends an anonymous warning to Brother Leon. . . and suffers the consequences when Archie (a subtle tormentor) finds out. Meanwhile, Archie's sometime confidant Obie, in wild love with Laurie Gundarson, loses interest in The Vigils; when Laurie is nearly raped by a trio of Vigils henchmen, Obie loses her—and vows revenge on Archie (who inspired but didn't order the attack). Still, though Obie is clever and gutsy in his scheme to humiliate and frighten Archie on Fair Day, he finds that his hatred has made him into someone just as monstrous as Archie (near-fatal tricks with a magic-show guillotine)—while Jerry Renault decides, after another run-in with Vigils violence, to return to Trinity High, ready to "outlast" the bullies rather than fight them. Cormier overdoes the gangland-style villainy and mayhem this time around. (There's also the suicide of one of Brother Leon's student-victims.) The tangle of power/violence/evil themes involves some heavyhanded summations and more than a few unconvincing moments—especially when it comes to Obie's near-murder of Satan-symbol Archie. But, for the many fans of The Chocolate War: another dark, intense melodrama—with another downbeat, Evil-Goes-On ending.

Pub Date: April 21, 1985

ISBN: 044090580X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1985

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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