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THE KEEPER

Part new-kid-in-town coming-of-age story, part supernatural thriller, with a slow start and a mostly satisfying end.

When James and his younger sister, Ava, move to a new town in a new state, they expect to encounter some differences—but their new neighborhood seems to be hiding dark secrets.

Twelve-year-old Mexican American James, who is Texas born and bred, has no interest in moving to cold and rainy Oregon. He misses his two best friends, and he especially misses Ita, his maternal grandmother, who passed away shortly before the big move. Tensions are high with his parents and 10-year-old Ava, too, due in part to the siblings’ ongoing prank war. Then creepy letters addressed to James from someone who signs off as “The Keeper” start appearing with warnings that he must prove himself as a member of his new community. Though at first mutually suspicious, James and Ava come to believe that neither one is behind the letters, but the erosion of trust caused by their rivalry leads their parents to believe it’s just another one of their elaborate hoaxes. Now, instead of being adversaries, the siblings must work together to solve the mystery behind their secretive community. The plot is slow to build, taking time to establish the siblings’ relationship and the neighbors’ ostensible friendliness. Unfortunately, this leaves less time to cultivate the mystery of the letters; this storyline only really picks up around the halfway mark, and the resolution feels rushed.

Part new-kid-in-town coming-of-age story, part supernatural thriller, with a slow start and a mostly satisfying end. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-307692-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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