An enjoyable start to a potentially engaging series for tweens.

THE TEST

From the Junior Lifeguards series , Vol. 1

In this middle-grade series starter, four friends embark on a challenging summer of training to save lives. 

Thirteen-year-old Jenna Bowers and her family have deep roots on the Massachusetts cape, and water has always played a big role in her life. She dreams of winning an Olympic swimming medal, but although she relishes “the relaxation of the pace and rhythm, the feeling of power as I slice through the water,” a lifetime of emphasis on times, stats, and drills has dimmed her passion for the sport. Still, she’s intrigued by a poster announcing tryouts for the prestigious junior lifeguard crew—and by the handsome young man pinning it up. Her former babysitter, Molly Cruise, was a lifeguard, and she made the job look like fun. Could becoming a lifeguard herself be the very thing Jenna needs to reignite her motivation? With the help of her coach and, more reluctantly, her parents, she decides to try out, and she convinces her best friends, Piper Janssens, Selena Diaz, and Ziggy Bloom, to vie for slots too. Although one might expect the outcome of the test to be a foregone conclusion, Carey (The Callahan Cousins: Keeping Cool, 2015) delivers believable surprises. She vividly renders scenes depicting Jenna in the water and deftly handles the often tense dynamic between the town’s year-round residents and its summer incomers. She makes sure that all the girls are distinct characters, as well: Ziggy’s family lives close to the land, seemingly without any income; Selena’s are the Ecuadorian caretakers at one of the large estates; and Piper’s divorced parents work out of state, so she lives with her grandmother and tends horses. The girls’ friendship feels authentic, and their easily expressed affection and sensitivity to one another’s foibles should inspire readers. Carey also emphasizes the hard work involved in lifeguard training. This first installment plants numerous seeds for future stories, including the arrival of the glamorous, jet-setting Frankel sisters; a mystery surrounding Ziggy’s grandparents; and the jealousies that arise as the girls vie for the attentions of attractive boys on the junior lifeguard squad.

An enjoyable start to a potentially engaging series for tweens.

Pub Date: April 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9984997-4-1

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Dunemere Books

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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