Pre-adolescent angst—funny, perplexing humiliating—is perennially fertile ground for middle-grade fiction. Holmes shows us...

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THE NORMAL KID

In a changing world, what can "normal" mean?

Lately, change has rocked Sylvan’s world—and not in a good way: family breakup, an embarrassing newspaper photo and now a new fifth-grade teacher. Sylvan tells himself he’s a “normal, average, everyday kid.” Sylvan’s classmate and co-narrator, Charity, has bigger changes to process: Her missionary dad’s abruptly returned the family to the States after five years in rural Kenya. Now he works as a house painter and won’t say grace. Charity’s classmates think she’s weird to shake hands with their teacher, but next to Brian, she is normal. Brian, on the autism spectrum (his depiction is realistic and low-key), makes loud noises in class, avoids eye contact and spends hours alone jumping on his trampoline. This well-told story captures a pivotal life experience: What we’ve assumed was permanent, bedrock reality can shift beneath us without warning. “Normal” changes. If it’s a tough lesson, it’s also liberating. Sylvan’s mom drags him with her to protest demonstrations (hence that embarrassing photo). That’s her normal—but is it Sylvan’s? Charity’s beliefs are her own, to keep or lose, whatever her dad believes.

Pre-adolescent angst—funny, perplexing humiliating—is perennially fertile ground for middle-grade fiction. Holmes shows us where it comes from and where it can take us if we let it. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8085-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches.

QUEERFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

A GUIDE FOR LGBTQ+ CHRISTIAN TEENS

A must-read guide for all queer and questioning Christians (and their allies, too)!

Queer youth still face a multitude of challenges while growing up, and these have the potential to be amplified by religious beliefs. Addressing that issue head-on, this guide for Christians seeks to provide counsel, understanding, and gentle guidance across a series of 40-plus chapters that address everything from coming out in a variety of contexts, positive ways to deal with haters, and helping start the conversation about gender-neutral bathrooms at school, to living authentically. The book acknowledges that the advice is sometimes vague, but that’s because the spectrum of queer life is so broad. In this regard, the book excels by speaking to a range of genders and sexual identities; asexuals, nonbinary people, bisexuals, pansexuals, etc., are all addressed with respect and will find useful tips for navigating their early years. The book works better for hunt-and-peck readers as opposed to those reading from cover to cover because some of the information is repetitious, but that repetition may be necessary to counterbalance years of incorrect, inaccurate, or purposely hateful misinformation. The contributors to this fabulous read include mental health experts and religious leaders. Text boxes, pie charts, graphs, and grayscale illustrations support and enhance the main narrative.

A must-have book for libraries, schools, and churches. (note on language, glossary, additional resources, sources) (Self-help. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Beaming Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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