Too cute to function.

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LULU IN HONOLULU

The fabulous Hawaiian vacation Lulu dreamed of is in jeopardy after her parents’ movie goes over budget and their attention is needed elsewhere.

Lulu’s director mom and actor dad promised they’d be home every night to spend time with Lulu and her older sister, Alexis, but the demands of the studio make it nearly impossible for their Hawaiian summer to be anything but a bummer. Lulu tries to improve the situation by helping her parents out on set and at home, but disaster strikes again and again. With her precocious and perky attitude, Lulu grates rather than endears, and the world she inhabits feels less like reality and more like an obnoxious children’s sitcom. It’s sweet that the youngster wants to spend time with her parents, but there’s no real urgency to her need for parental interaction: The pair are fairly present throughout the book, making Lulu seem spoiled rather than abandoned. Far more interesting are the book’s structure (the endeavor is written as a screenplay) and Hawaiian setting and culture, a culture Wolf is able to weave in effortlessly. Instead of feeling like a flimsy travelogue, the setting feels real and lived-in. It’s unfortunate her characters and scenario aren’t as well thought-out. 

Too cute to function. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4926-0487-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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THE VISCONTI HOUSE

Whether it’s because she would rather write stories alone than hang out with her gossiping classmates or because she lives in the Visconti House, a crumbling Italianate villa (which, everyone assumes, must be haunted), Year 8 Aussie Laura Horton always feels like an outsider. When Leon Murphy, a loner in his own right, moves in with his odd grandmother, Laura notices that they have more in common than she originally thought, including wanting to solve the mystery behind Mr. Visconti, his once-ornate house and the woman he loved. Debut author Edgar’s quiet, old-fashioned storytelling, in which the children can sound older than their years, celebrates curiosity, hidden treasures and impromptu gatherings with spirited and creative family members. In the process of ferreting out the secrets of Mr. Visconti and his formerly splendid estate (with written letters, interviews and intuition rather than the Internet), Laura also discovers friendship, romance and accepting the differences in herself and others. Fans of Blue Balliett and Elise Broach’s Shakespeare’s Secret (2005) will enjoy another puzzle to solve. (author’s note) (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5019-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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