Ignore the title: this is a good story already.

THIS WOULD MAKE A GOOD STORY SOMEDAY

Rising seventh-grader Sara Johnston-Fisher’s summer journal chronicles a family cross-country trip and her own personal journey from acutely self-conscious preteen to someone “new and improved.”

Sara and her friends have grand plans to reinvent themselves in the summer before middle school, but Sara’s are derailed when her mother Mimi wins a fellowship to take and write about a family train trip. Sara’s mortified by her family—two moms, college-age sister Laurel, who has a tongue stud, Root, Laurel’s laid-back California “partner,” and her all-caps–loud little sister—and she’s horrified by their New Train Friends: diminutive Travis, his writer dad, and his two nonagenarian “aunties.” The author comments on a variety of social issues through Laurel and Root’s social consciousness and warns readers of the lack of privacy on the internet through Travis’ computer savvy. Sara includes her own impressions of scenic and historical highlights of the trip as well as notes, postcards, and excerpts from other’s writings. But this story is never preachy; it ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to incredibly moving, and the voices are true. Fans of Levy’s Fletcher Family novels will be happy to hear more about Frog’s friend Ladybug, Sara’s little sister. Ladybug is Asian-American, and Travis is depicted as black on the cover; Sara and the others appear to be white.

Ignore the title: this is a good story already. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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