THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE

Ronnie takes care of her ADHD little brother, Gee, with more responsibility than usual for a 13-year-old, while developing her own philosophy from a self-help book. Opportunity for a summer vacation emerges when Ronnie’s grandfather arrives at their Missouri home in a brand new RV and a business plan to travel through Kansas for some “wind prospecting.” Mom seizes the chance to recuperate from a broken ankle and convinces Pops to take the children for two weeks. But traveling with an older, quirky loner not used to children proves to be less of a vacation and more of a thrill ride with some alarming moments for all three. Gee’s overactive exuberance and impulsive behavior are quite a challenge for Ronnie, left to babysit at each campsite while Pops is out working. Quoting from her book, Ronnie tries to keep a positive outlook, but when Gee disappears to follow a carnival performer, and her grandfather gets hurt in a motorcycle accident, things get a bit serious, if not intriguing, before they are neatly resolved. While Cheaney provides plenty of “oh-my-gosh” scenarios with Gee’s escapades, the story, as the trip, tends to drag on a bit until the climactic conclusion, despite the crafty, descriptive first-person narrative. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 8, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-83790-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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