A resonant look at coming-of-age in a socially networked world.


A Hawaii teen charts life before and after the catastrophe that’s reshaped her world.

Three years ago, Taylor’s family (presumed white) left Oregon for Oahu, where her mom’s clinical depression and the friction between her dad and brother, Eli, a high school senior, have worsened. Eli skips school to hang with his surfing brahs and girlfriend, Stacy, partying, drinking, and driving to the North Shore to surf. Eighth grader Taylor escapes into social networking, fantasizing about a career in fashion. Thrillingly befriended by wealthy, stylish Brielle, whose manipulative ways are patterned on reality TV, Taylor allows Brielle to coax her into abandoning one friend and betraying another. Taylor’s responses to classroom writing prompts—dating both before and after the catastrophe—comprise the text. Like Brielle, Taylor’s turned winner-take-all competition into her life template. Triumphant outcomes are transmitted and amplified through social media, but so are humiliation and tragedy. Publicly scrutinized by indifferent strangers, they prove deeply isolating. If the shape of the plot’s defining events at first seems withheld capriciously, the technique pays off in a powerful story charting the evolution of a life-shattering night and its aftermath. Oahu’s dizzying contradictions, from shabby to glorious, and cultural events such as Bon dances are carefully rendered and, like the Hawaiian orthography, largely accurate. Though character names and actions convey Hawaii’s uniquely mixed, multiethnic population, physical descriptions are disappointingly few.

A resonant look at coming-of-age in a socially networked world. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-17187-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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


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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