A jocular, fast-paced voyage into the sometimes simple but never quiet mind of an ambitious eighth grader.

FLAT BROKE

A 14-year-old greedily launches himself headlong into the entrepreneurial world, with amusing consequences.

In the sequel to Liar, Liar (2011), Kevin’s parents have taken away his allowance to punish him for his creative lying. Never impeded by misfortune (or a guilty conscience or the advice of everyone wiser than he), he decides it’s a great time to make money. First he provides the perfect venue for poker games, even though some of his hapless player-victims begin to lose more money than they have. With the gambling business running admirably, he starts cleaning neighbors’ garages, not worrying that depositing the trash in store Dumpsters is illegal. Then he begins “borrowing” a golf cart to sell cookies and coffee to college students. But he steps on too many people on the way up, inevitably leading to his downfall. Kevin’s good-natured—if oversimplified—view of the world is pretty funny, and while readers will anticipate problems long before he does, it just adds to the fun. Chapter titles taken from a fictitious book on making money—“The Successful Person Has Vision That Others Lack,” for example—contrast nicely with the disastrous outcome of Kevin’s grandiose plans. That his droll first-person account only lightly sketches other characters hardly matters.

A jocular, fast-paced voyage into the sometimes simple but never quiet mind of an ambitious eighth grader. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-74002-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present

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AS BRAVE AS YOU

Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.

First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.

This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present . (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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