Another bundle of lightly delivered life lessons wrapped in a cozy blanket of wish fulfillment.

MY LIFE AS A BILLIONAIRE

From the My Life series , Vol. 10

A winning lottery ticket gives 12-year-old Derek Fallon a taste of what it’s like to have massive, fantastic wealth!

As in his previous nine My Life series outings, Derek discovers that opportunity brings ups, downs, and negotiations with both himself and others. When the Powerball ticket that he gets in lieu of the $40 he was promised for helping his friend’s big brother, Jamie, move some equipment comes up a winner, the first check alone is big enough to cover not only personal indulgences like a pair of $9,000 sneakers, but a cool BMX wheelchair for his buddy Umberto and a massive donation to the Greta Thunberg Foundation. It also leaves him feeling like an outsider, since everyone now treats him differently, and guilty to have so much without having earned it. Luckily, he also has common-sensical friends to keep his head straight and indulgent but rock-solid parents to check his wilder impulses while filling him in on the basics of money management. He also has Jamie, with whom he agreed to split the proceeds and who goes hog wild with his share, as a cautionary example when questions arise about the ticket’s legitimacy. Stick figure drawings in the margins add wry visual definitions and commentary to Derek’s dazed and dazzled narrative. The cast presents as White throughout.

Another bundle of lightly delivered life lessons wrapped in a cozy blanket of wish fulfillment. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26181-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart.

I'M OK

When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.

Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school’s talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who’s African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who’s white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, “the lonely widower” of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and “tries too hard.” Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok’s father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa’s African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1929-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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