IF A TREE FALLS AT LUNCH PERIOD

Kirsten and Walk start the first day of seventh grade with one thing in common: They’re both late. This earns them a detention together, and they strike up an easy friendship, which seems to make their mothers uneasy for some reason. Could it be that Walk is the only black kid at the very private school? Or that Kirsten shows signs of an eating disorder, has lost her best friend to the wiles of the rich and snobby Brianna Hanna-Hines and seems to have no desire to fit in with the popular crowd? Choldenko’s talent for characters and conversation brings the two voices instantly to life in alternating points of view (Kirsten’s chapters in first-person, Walk’s in third, for a slight off-kilter feeling). The story of familiar middle-school tribulations is engaging, but fails to pick up steam until it lands in a late surprise twist. Completely without foreshadowing, it adds both gravitas and clarity to the entire story, which turns out to be about privilege, perception and the fallibility of parents. This will appeal to a wide range of middle-school readers and would make a great book-club or classroom discussion. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-15-205753-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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BYSTANDER

Bullying is a topic that never lacks for interest, and here Preller concentrates on the kids who try to ignore or accommodate a bully to keep themselves safe. Victim David’s pain is evident from the first moment newcomer Eric sees him, but he tries not to acknowledge the reality before him. His mother is trying for a fresh start in this Long Island community, as his father has succumbed to schizophrenia and left her and their two boys on their own. Griffin, the bullying instigator, has charisma of sorts; he is a leader and yet suffers under his father’s bullying and aggression. For Eric to do the right thing is neither easy nor what he first wants to do, and the way he finds support among his classmates is shown in logical and believable small steps. Eminently discussable as a middle-school read-aloud, the narrative offers minimal subplots to detract from the theme. The role of girls is downplayed, except for classmate Mary, who is essential to the resolution, enhancing appeal across gender lines. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37906-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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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.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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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