An engaging, if occasionally uneven, fantasy.

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EPIC KIDS

A middle school student discovers that his life is anything but average when he befriends new classmates in this novel.

Twelve-year-old Jake is surprised the day the new students at his school invite him to sit with them at lunch. He always considered himself just an average boy before he met Amanda, Darryl, and Tony, the “cool new kids.” Although they are his classmates, they seem older and more mature, especially Darryl with his facial hair. The next day, Jake skips school to see a movie with his new friends; but the outing takes an ominous turn when Tony and Darryl disappear from the theater. The search for their friends takes Jake and Amanda to a zoo, where she subdues an unruly spider monkey by shooting bolts of green lightning from her fingers. She finally discloses to Jake that she is a princess from a planet called Amagrandus. An evil prince named Badood will stop at nothing to rule the planet, and she needs Jake’s help to stop him. She also reveals that Jake has the ability to control time. They soon find themselves in a race to find their friends and save her planet. Blaze offers an energetic fantasy aimed at readers ages 9 to 12 that may appeal to fans of SF. But the promising premise is hindered in places by inconsistent development. The opening chapters effectively establish the surreal world the hero is about to enter when Darryl levitates Jake’s tray during lunch and the protagonist encounters a jaguar behind the school gym. Throughout the novel, the author demonstrates a knack for creating appealing and fast-paced action sequences, whether it’s the spider monkey misbehaving at the zoo or an inanimate Tyrannosaurus rex at a miniature golf course coming to life and going on the prowl. Amanda’s background as a princess is intriguing, but details about Amagrandus are relegated to a few fleeting mentions. The ending establishes the basis for a sequel, and it is possible Amanda’s planet will be a key setting in future installments.

An engaging, if occasionally uneven, fantasy.

Pub Date: Dec. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73347-751-2

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Blaze Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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