Kindness and friendship prevail in this charming story.

Two roommates become friends at a prestigious boarding school.

Juniper, who goes by Jun, leaves her public school after winning a scholarship to the elite Ellsmere Academy. After scaring away her roommate, Cassie, during their first meeting, Jun later redeems herself when she stands up to Emily, queen bee and bully, for calling Cassie an orphan. Jun’s confrontation with Emily is the beginning of their rivalry, each vying to be the best student for her own reasons. Jun’s sarcasm and wit serve her well when dealing with Emily, but as the school year goes on, the bullying gets more and more severe. Driven by her desire to become a doctor, Jun finds her life at Ellsmere is constantly at risk due to Emily’s scheming. All the while Jun and Cassie’s friendship blossoms as the two get to know each other. A fantastical element involving the Ellsmere family and the dark forest next to the academy is woven into the story but lacks development. Fans of Hicks’ visually appealing artwork in Rainbow Rowell’s Pumpkinheads (2019) will enjoy the familiar art style and bold lines. Characters are expressive and cleanly drawn, complementing the straightforward text and accessible storytelling. Jun is illustrated with beige skin, dark hair, and dark eyes while her roommate, Cassie, has pale skin, light-brown hair, and green eyes. Several pages of notes on the illustrations are appended.

Kindness and friendship prevail in this charming story. (Graphic fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21909-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

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

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. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013


An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss.

It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Indian American Reha feels caught between two worlds.

Monday through Friday, she goes to a school where she stands out for not being White but where she has a weekday best friend, Rachel, and does English projects with potential crush Pete. On the weekends, she’s with her other best friend, Sunita (Sunny for short), at gatherings hosted by her Indian community. Reha feels frustrated that her parents refuse to acknowledge her Americanness and insist on raising her with Indian values and habits. Then, on the night of the middle school dance, her mother is admitted to the hospital, and Reha’s world is split in two again: this time, between hospital and home. Suddenly she must learn not just how to be both Indian and American, but also how to live with her mother’s leukemia diagnosis. The sections dealing with Reha’s immigrant identity rely on oft-told themes about the overprotectiveness of immigrant parents and lack the nuance found in later pages. Reha’s story of her evolving relationships with her parents, however, feels layered and real, and the scenes in which Reha must grapple with the possible loss of a parent are beautifully and sensitively rendered. The sophistication of the text makes it a valuable and thought-provoking read even for those older than the protagonist.

An intimate novel that beautifully confronts grief and loss. (Verse novel. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304742-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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