A fast-paced space-capade whose apocalyptic elements are more comedy than gravity.

ROADKILL ON THE FLIPSIDE

VOLUME 4 OF THE WARRENSBERG TRILOGY

In this fourth installment of a YA gonzo sci-fi series, two teenage galactic adventurers find themselves teleported across the universe to save, well, literally everything from an all-devouring black hole.

Warrensberg, Minnesota, alias “Dorkville,” is home to the two protagonists, who in the course of previous novels attained recognition all through the cosmos as troubleshooting heroes. On a seemingly ordinary day, 16-year-old Wilkin Delgado and his upstairs housemate, the 17-year-old, superpowered, warrior princess/fashion icon Alice Jane Zelinski LLC (having taken over most extraterrestrial business enterprises in an earlier tale), are teleported far away to the “Flipside” of outer space. Wilkin finds his old mentor, cosmic “plumber” Cardamon Webb, has yet another EOE (End of Everything) crisis on hand. Alice Jane, meanwhile, learns she’s been erroneously declared dead, but her quest sets her on a parallel path to the same dilemma: in a few days, a rogue black hole will consume the universe unless something is done. The search for answers involves an ancient, planet-sized spaceship gone haywire on a salvage-recycling mission, a few cryptic lines of alien religious scripture, and an endless, pointless, carnage-filled ground war against an indeterminate foe. The author steals a joke from Douglas Adams and the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by offering a fourth volume in a declared Warrensberg Trilogy. As in the preceding books, Ammerman (Waiting for the Voo, 2014, etc.) has the two leads narrating alternating chapters (which tend to conclude in cliffhangers), Wilkin in his more levelheaded voice making an amusing contrast with the self-aggrandizing and aggressive Alice Jane. The plot is one darned thing after another, often referencing characters and events of the saga’s previous installments, but it never bores or condescends to the YA demographic (violence quotient is, in fact, quite high; sex is nothing to worry about). Brevity is just about right for the breezy material, and readers who have followed these daring frenemies and their daffy exploits should find this very much in keeping with its predecessors.

A fast-paced space-capade whose apocalyptic elements are more comedy than gravity.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9846822-6-3

Page Count: 183

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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