A mean-girl story with a big heart and soul.

FROSTED KISSES

Penny, from The Cupcake Queen (2009), endures barbs thrown by her bullying nemesis, Charity, but further trouble emerges when a new exchange student seems bent on stealing Penny’s boyfriend.

Penny's darn busy—when she's not at school, she's working at her mother's cupcake shop or helping her best friend, Tally, with odd jobs in order to raise funds to save the local animal shelter from closing. Meanwhile, her burgeoning relationship with Marcus renders her completely giddy, and she dreams that he'll be her first sweet kiss. But when Penny sees Marcus hanging out with Esmeralda, the gorgeous, new Parisian foreign exchange student, and later with Charity, she falls into worry and uncertainty. And to top it off, her parents are newly divorced, the holidays are approaching, and Penny's dealing with her increasing anger toward her father, who perennially breaks his promises to visit. A number of miniplotlines dilute the story's focus: among others, Penny suffers a concussion, but nothing comes of it save a few missed days of school, and her art teacher's relationship with a visiting artist seems suspiciously close. But as in her first outing, Penny's voice charms; she's keenly observant and wry, balancing surely between young innocence and burgeoning bravery. Readers will cheer the ultimate delivery of a satisfying, heaping dose of justice on the guilty.

A mean-girl story with a big heart and soul. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-79055-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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