A remarkable debut enlivened by heroic portions of silliness, spirit, and depth.

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The Dirt Bike Detective

In this debut upper middle–grade mystery, several outcast students at a charter school search for their missing teacher.

Twelve-year-old Oliver Teller lives in Raven Ridge, Colorado. His mother works two jobs to keep him attending Raven Ridge Academy, a castlelike school situated above an old silver mine. Oliver has a large birthmark on the right side of his face, making him a target for bullies like Johnny Ricker. He also has a friend named Gio and harbors a crush on the clever Jaclyn Jones. Hoping to start the new school year right—and impress his teacher, Mr. Doyle—Oliver brings his great-grandfather’s pocket watch to history class. When Johnny steals the watch from Oliver, Mr. Doyle confiscates it until after school. Enter Chase Sullivan, new student and self-styled detective, who promises to get the watch back. Luckily, Chase’s specialty is the paranormal. The academy is home to gargoyles, ghostly students, mysterious power surges, and a teaching staff whose conversations seem to point to a conspiracy. When Mr. Doyle goes missing, the young detectives explore every possible explanation, from aliens to zombies. They must act quickly because the U.S. president is coming to honor their classmate Ana Rahela Balenovic, who wrote an award-winning essay on her pride in America. Hoover presents a sprawling world populated by charming heroes, like Jaclyn, and lovable oddballs, like Eduard (an eloquently snooty math whiz). Hoover also creates fragile, heart-stopping moments that launch his narrative above the average kids’ adventure. During art class, Oliver is partnered with the know-it-all Ana Rahela to draw each other’s portraits; he draws her with a big mouth and balloon head, while she portrays him as he longs to be seen—without his birthmark. Daringly, the author also gives readers two versions of America to consider: one that celebrates independence and another that poisons its own soil with chemicals. Though Hoover leaves some things unexplained by the end, his narrative is a concert of striking events and complex emotions.

A remarkable debut enlivened by heroic portions of silliness, spirit, and depth.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9966709-1-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Iconicon, llc

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.

ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS

An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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