Adroit, sensitive, horrifying, yet hilarious.


Attempting to start over, a traumatized tween and his parents move to a town where electronic devices are banned.

In a tale that will put readers through an emotional wringer, Bow crafts an uproarious small-town comedy with a devastating tragedy at its core played out by a cast as memorable for its animals as its people. Having gone through a year of therapy and home schooling after witnessing the deaths of the rest of his fifth grade class in a school shooting that happens before the events of the book, Simon O’Keeffe hopes the move to Grin And Bear It, Nebraska, will let him escape the relentless notoriety and start seventh grade as an ordinary new kid. As no one in town is allowed to have a computer, cellphone, or even unshielded microwave because of the supersensitive radio telescopes nearby, things go well…for a while. He even makes friends with Agate, a classmate who cheerfully announces that she’s autistic and challenges him to a gross-out contest. (Which he easily wins, what with his mother’s being an undertaker.) Though developments—ranging from a roundup of escaped emus to being tasked with socializing a winsome puppy in service-dog training—provide plenty of warm and comical moments, the secret comes out eventually, spiraling into a crisis exacerbated by chance events and Simon’s still uncontrollable reactions to sirens and other triggers. Readers will be relieved and cheered by the way he ultimately finds both the inner stuff and outer support to weather it. The cast largely presents as White.

Adroit, sensitive, horrifying, yet hilarious. (resources) (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-368-08285-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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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...


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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


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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