A vanity project that's for fans only.



A popular YouTuber releases her memoir.

Jenn McAllister, better known as Jennxpenn, details her ascent to Internet stardom and her personal struggles with bullying and anxiety. The book flips between prose chapters and lists, such as "Top 10 Things Middle Schoolers Worry About That They Shouldn't" and "Top 10 Best Pieces of Advice I've Ever Received." Unfortunately neither really pops. The lists are serviceable distractions filled with boilerplate platitudes (“Know It’s Not About You”; “Nobody’s in Charge of Your Happiness Except You”). McAllister's recounting of her own life starts interestingly enough (although her "bullying" is pretty tame, mostly name-calling that most children endure) but quickly loses narrative urgency or comedic charm. The book is filled with pictures as well, but there aren't any captions, so those who aren't familiar with YouTube culture won't know whom these people are or what the point of the picture's placement is. This lack of context feeds into the book's largest problem: anyone not familiar with Jennxpenn and her cohorts is left completely behind. The author describes her burgeoning channel competently enough early on, but once she makes it big, the narrative devolves into a listing of accomplishments and experiences that don't lead into one another in any way or provide much meaning to those curious about YouTubers but not particularly familiar with them.

A vanity project that's for fans only. (Memoir. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-86112-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

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The proximity to pain makes for a choppy narrative but also vitally draws attention to a global crisis



This memoir of modern domestic slavery ends with hope and determination, as young author Hall (born Shyima El-Sayed Hassan) is “one of the fortunate 2 percent” to be freed from servitude.

Shyima’s childhood in Egypt ends when her parents are blackmailed into turning over their 8-year-old daughter to a wealthy couple. Every day, Shyima cleans the five-story house and the 17-car garage, “standing on a stool doing the dishes” because she’s too tiny to reach the sink. When she’s 10, Shyima’s captors move to California, illegally trafficking her into the U.S. After two more years of hard labor and increasing ill health, a worried neighbor calls the police, and Shyima’s journey into freedom begins. A chain of Muslim and Christian foster parents (some protective, others exploitative) leads her to become an anti-slavery activist. Unsurprisingly, Hall’s representations of Arab and Muslim men are filtered through her appalling experiences. Though she acknowledges misogyny “is not what the Muslim faith is about,” readers should expect to find depictions that hew closely to negative stereotypes. Those readers prepared to brave a dense, adult tome could move from Hall’s memoir to John Bowe’s Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy (2007) for a deeper look.

The proximity to pain makes for a choppy narrative but also vitally draws attention to a global crisis . (Nonfiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8168-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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Full of razors that cut—and razors to cut off shackles: a must.



A slim volume sharp as knives.

Lacing traditional fairy tales through real-life perils, Heppermann produces short poems with raw pain, scathing commentary and fierce liberation. There’s no linear arc; instead, girls buck and fight and hurt. One poem takes the expression “You Go, Girl!” literally, banishing anyone with “wetness, dryness, tightness, looseness, / redness, yellowing, blackheads, whiteheads, the blues.” In a structure heartbreakingly inverted from “The Three Little Pigs” (and nodding to “Rumpelstiltskin”), one girl’s body goes from “a house of bricks, / point guard on the JV team” to “a house of sticks, / kindling in Converse high-tops,” until finally “she’s building herself out of straw / as light as the needle swimming in her bathroom scale. / The smaller the number, the closer to gold.” She’s her own wolf, destroying herself. Sexual repression, molestation and endless beauty judgments bite and sting, causing eating disorders, self-injury, internalization of rules—and rebellion. A hypothetical miller’s daughter says, “No, I can’t spin that room full of straw into gold. / …. / No, I can’t give you the child; / the child will never exist.” Gretel’s act of eating will literally rescue Hansel; Red Riding Hood reclaims sexual agency, declaring, “If that woodsman shows up now, / I will totally kick his ass.”

Full of razors that cut—and razors to cut off shackles: a must. (author’s note, index of first lines, index of photographs) (Poetry. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228957-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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