A literary hall of mirrors, with plenty of thrills and laughs to keep “nonfictionals” in the game.

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SECRET ORIGINS

From the Story Thieves series , Vol. 3

Bethany’s latest book-diving exploit takes her and her friends into a superhero comic, a realm where, of course, the good guys always win—or do they?

Following the electrifying discovery that her long-missing fictional dad is the superhero Doc Twilight, the white girl trails him from “this” world to Jupiter City, a burg of costumed heroes and villains that has been rebooted by its writer into an authoritarian dystopia under the thumb of a vengeful scenery-chewer known only as the Dark. Along with weaving “fiction,” “nonfiction,” and metafiction in brain-bending ways, Riley continues to have great fun with his premise—stocking Jupiter City with villains like Dr. Apathy and a fruit-themed gang led by Rotten Banana; slipping in pop-culture references from Squirrel Girl to “I’ve got a bad feeling about all of this”; and among other revelations describing how his string-pulling alter ego “Nobody” used a certain unnamed classic about a boy and a tree to subvert one of pop fiction’s most fundamental tropes. He also has Bethany sacrifice herself (seemingly) and strands her best bud Owen in a choose-your-own-plot novel with a disingenuous invitation to readers to leave him there. Bethany’s other allies, the comically misnamed Charm and dark-skinned, relentlessly upbeat Gwen, supply further banter, chemistry, and diversity to this tangled episode.

A literary hall of mirrors, with plenty of thrills and laughs to keep “nonfictionals” in the game. (Metafictional fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6125-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business.

THE FOWL TWINS

From the Artemis Fowl series

With their big brother Artemis off to Mars, 11-year-old twins Myles and Beckett are swept up in a brangle with murderous humans and even more dangerous magical creatures.

Unsurprisingly, the fraternal Irish twins ultimately prove equal to the challenge—albeit with help from, Colfer as omniscient narrator admits early on, a “hugely improbable finale.” Following the coincidental arrival on their island estate of two denizens of the subterranean fairy realm in the persons of a tiny but fearsome troll and a “hybrid” pixie-elf, or “pixel,” police trainee, the youngest Fowls immediately find themselves in the sights of both Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye, a ruthless aristocrat out to bag said troll for its immorality-conferring venom, and Sister Jeronima Gonzalez-Ramos de Zárate, black-ops “nunterrogation” and knife specialist for ACRONYM, an intergovernmental fairy-monitoring organization. Amid the ensuing whirl of captures, escapes, trickery, treachery, and gunfire (none of which proves fatal…or at least not permanently), the twins leverage their complementary differences to foil and exasperate both foes: Myles being an Artemis mini-me who has dressed in black suits since infancy and loves coming up with and then “Fowlsplaining” his genius-level schemes; and Beckett, ever eager to plunge into reckless action and nearly nonverbal in English but with an extraordinary gift for nonhuman tongues. In the end they emerge triumphant, though threatened with mind wipe if they ever interfere in fairy affairs again. Yeah, right. Human characters seem to be default white; “hybrid” is used to describe nonhuman characters of mixed heritage.

Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04375-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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