SIDEKICKS

The author who made a splash with The Big Splash (2008) takes the “costumed superheroes” genre out for a joyride, and anyone who comes along will never read comics the same way again. Six years as Bright Boy, sidekick to crime-fighting superhero Phantom Justice, has left Scott a teenager with no life, no friends and revealing yellow tights that show the news cameras every bit of the involuntary hard-on he gets after heroically rescuing a beautiful victim. Then another seemingly devastating development: He and arch-nemesis Monkeywrench (Dr. Chaotic’s sidekick) both lose their masks in battle, and Monkeywrench turns out to be not only a girl, but one he knows from school. This leads to a giddy, liberating romance, as well as cool costume makeovers and sensational publicity after the cameras catch some of that love action. It also earns them death sentences from their respective employers, who turn out to be very different from their public images and not at all willing to be edged out of the limelight by supporting characters. Scott’s present-tense narration keeps pedal to the metal from start to finish, and readers will be quickly won over as the two super-strong, super-fast, super-likable protagonists face both inner conflicts and a Dark Knight–ish villain as deeply psychotic and scary as he is super powerful. Look for more twists than a pretzel factory and a possible sequel. (Superhero fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-9803-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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