Engaging storytelling with diverse characters and a deft mix of mystery, the supernatural, and real-life, relatable teen...

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CALL ME FIREFLY

From the Sonny and Breanne Mystery series , Vol. 2

In this sequel, two bullied middle schoolers continue to display a talent for befriending ghosts, untangling mysteries, and solving murders.

In the first installment of Paavola’s (Jack and the Beanpole, 2019, etc.) series, two smart eighth graders—tall and skinny white girl Breanne Thurman and short Sonny Etherly, who is black—bonded over their abilities to communicate with the dead and their relegation to the cafeteria “nerd table.” Now, not long after solving a murder, assisting a trio of ghosts haunting their school, and learning that they can speak to each other telepathically, the two friends face a double challenge: help five more spirits “cross over” and cope with Breanne’s relentless bully, the leader of the school’s mean girls. The first ghost, Ashni “Firefly” Patel, died a violent death at the school in the 1950s along with sad, frightened first grader Luis Sanchez and sullen Timmy O’Brien, a leather-jacketed teen. At the zoo, Breanne and Sonny meet two more ghosts of ’50s vintage, seemingly unrelated to the first three (or are they?): the zoo’s one-time veterinarian and the lion in his care. This fast-moving tale of suspense and the supernatural, told through the distinctive first-person voices of Sonny, Breanne, and Ashni, is seamlessly grounded in the real-world issue of bullying. Indeed, few characters in the book, living or dead, are (or were) unaffected by bullying, some as bullies themselves. Despite ghostly intercessions on Breanne’s behalf, Paavola doesn’t offer glib solutions. What shines through, without losing the plot’s momentum, are some root causes of bullying and the importance of a proactive school administration, communication, tools for de-escalating anger, and supportive peers and adults. Sonny has his grandmother (Grams) to confide in; Breanne has her grandfather; and they both have a sympathetic science teacher. Diversity is easily organic to the narrative, with characters described as black or white; so are Grams’ frank recollections of segregation in the ’50s, leading Sonny to understand Luis’ and Ashni’s experiences as “two ‘not-white’ kids in an all-white school.”

Engaging storytelling with diverse characters and a deft mix of mystery, the supernatural, and real-life, relatable teen issues.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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