A timely, introspective whodunit with a lot of heart.

IT WASN'T ME

Six seventh-graders in small-town Massachusetts reluctantly spend school vacation week participating in a restorative-practice justice circle in hopes of identifying a vandal.

Amateur photographer Theo is the victim of a hate crime—his self-portraits in the student gallery defaced with “scribbled threats [and] gay slurs” and followed by a seemingly related incident in the darkroom—yet none of the five students who were in the gallery at the time admit culpability. A “non-horrible” teacher brings Theo and the five suspects together in a radical approach to conflict resolution, reminding them that “all of us are fighting unseen battles.” Told primarily through Theo’s first-person present-tense perspective, punctuated by daily assessments completed by his classmates, the book resists casting any one character as the obvious perpetrator. In true Breakfast Club fashion, the time spent together is sometimes hilarious and sometimes tragic, and it leaves secrets revealed—one student recently lost a sibling, several are navigating cultural expectations and stereotypes, Theo’s dad split last year—and intimate connections forged. Fans of Levy’s Fletcher Family series about two white dads and their adopted sons will recognize Jax Fletcher. Of the five suspects, Jax and Andre are African-American, while Alice Shu appears Asian, and Molly and Erik are identified as white along with Theo. Both refreshingly and frustratingly, Theo’s sexual orientation is never made explicit; the text emphasizes the impact of the harassment rather than the relevance of its content.

A timely, introspective whodunit with a lot of heart. (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6643-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.

WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW

From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read.

RESTART

Will a bully always be a bully?

That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default.

Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05377-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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