If there were a reality show called Real Housewives of Tuscaloosa: The Middle School Years, this might suffice as the print...

HARD ROCK

From the Tig Ripley series , Vol. 2

This second book of the Tig Ripley series continues as Tig and her all-girl band, Pandora's Box, struggle with middle school drama.

Pandora’s Box is made up of Tig and her classmates Olivia, Robbie, and Claire and her cousin Kyra. The five girls are now making attempts to improve their instrumental skills since gaining local notoriety winning a regional competition and appearing on a University of Alabama television show (Rock ’n’ Roll Rebel, 2016). The weak link of the band has been Kyra, who can barely play a lick and seems to only be in the band because she wants to be famous. The girls fuss at rehearsals about Kyra’s lack of skills, and Robbie brings in a talented new girl, Paris, who threatens Kyra’s place in the band. Tig is still secretly pining over her secret crush, Will Mason, who is dating bandmate Olivia (a twosome that Tig paired up even though she had feelings for Will). Even when the author tries to throw in a divorce of one of the band mates’ parents in a possible attempt to add substance, the drama among the girls supersedes any real depth. Along with Rue’s failed attempt at teenspeak—“He’s totes smart” (“totes” is just so 2010)—the characters lack complexity, and the band's story is reduced to a soap opera. Tig’s world is largely white, with Chinese-American Robbie the only significant exception.

If there were a reality show called Real Housewives of Tuscaloosa: The Middle School Years, this might suffice as the print version. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58536-947-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience. (Fiction. 10-14)

THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS

A middle school story in which parental depression manifests itself in absence.

Natalie’s vivacious botanist mother (who’s white) has retreated from life, leaving her therapist husband (who’s biracial) and daughter to fill the gaping hole she has left. With the help of an egg-drop contest and a scientific-method project, Natalie explores breakable things and the nurturing of hope. Narrating in first-person, the mixed-race seventh-grader (1/4 Korean and 3/4 white) is drawn to her mother’s book, titled How to Grow A Miracle. It reminds her of when her mother was excited by science and questions and life. With a STEM-inspired chapter framework and illustrated with Neonakis’ scientific drawings, Keller’s debut novel uses the scientific method to unpack the complex emotions depression can cause. Momentum builds over nine months as Natalie observes, questions, researches, experiments, and analyzes clues to her mother’s state of mind. Providing support and some comic relief are her two sidekicks, Dari (a smart Indian immigrant boy) and Twig (Natalie’s wealthy, white best friend). The diversity of the characters provides identity and interest, not issue or plotline. Tension peaks at the egg-drop contest, as the three friends plan to use the prize winnings to bring Natalie’s mother back to life with a gift of a rare cobalt blue orchid. Paralleling their scientific progress, Natalie reluctantly experiences her first visits to talk therapy, slowly opening like a tight bloom.

A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1566-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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