Gephart’s compassion is noble, but it’s not enough to make Lily's story resonate.

LILY AND DUNKIN

Lily is trans and is facing puberty, which will make her look less than herself than she does now, while new kid Dunkin’s manic impulsiveness makes him a misfit; though they click immediately, life gets complicated.

According to her author’s note, Gephart promised her son a story with a character who is bipolar like him and promised herself a story of a trans girl, to help foster understanding of people like them. Gephart clearly has a lot of heart, and she tells their stories with compassion. They speak in alternating first-person narration with cursive headers for Lily and block capitals for Dunkin. Dunkin’s insensitivity during manic episodes doesn’t erase the fact that he’s a good kid, and that comes through. But trans readers will likely not recognize themselves in Lily, even if they share some common ground. Lily is perfectly polite, unfailingly kind, with nary a bad thought, angelic right up to her fairy-tale ending. Though Gephart does a good job of rounding out her other characters, Lily is so pristine that she feels mythical, falling into the pile of fiction’s magical misfits so perfect it’s impossible not to accept this one little departure from the norm. There are too few messy, complicated trans heroes that still find love and acceptance in literature for kids, and while cis readers may find it educational, this isn’t going to change that.

Gephart’s compassion is noble, but it’s not enough to make Lily's story resonate. (resources) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53674-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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