Poorly constructed but also a breathless, fun crawl through a maze of twisty passages



From the Jane Doe Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A tormented, snarky girl quests through a magical house full of traps in this series opener.

Ever since Jane Doe appeared in Bluehaven on the Night of All Catastrophes 14 years ago, a babe in the arms of her nonresponsive father, the villagers have called her the Cursed One. Jane, they are sure, brought the earthquakes that plague them and somehow closed off the Manor that once offered gateways to the Otherworlds. On the annual holiday during which Jane and her father are burned in effigy by the townsfolk, Jane is rescued from a near murder only to be thrust through a secret Manor entrance on a quest to save all the worlds. The Manor’s filled with corpses, gas mask–bedecked soldiers, and B-movie traps. With the help of a few potential allies—or are they enemies?—Jane (who, along with every other character, has no obvious racial identity) hopes to find her newly vanished father. Lachlan’s worldbuilding is utterly incoherent, with a blend of technology levels, idioms, and foods that make no sense together, and he makes liberal, casual use of ethnic and disability tropes. Still, for those readers who want a video game–style race against time (if Jane doesn’t press the right glyph on the floor tiles, or duck the giant swinging axe, or escape baddies on top of a rushing train, she will die gruesomely), there’s plenty of bloody, fast-paced adventuring. A romance between Jane and a female friend seems likely to spark in Volume 2.

Poorly constructed but also a breathless, fun crawl through a maze of twisty passages . (Fantasy. 13-15)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-3921-1

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Opening episodes of a comic-book series created by an American teacher in Japan take a leap into chapter-book format, with only partial success. Resembling—in occasional illustrations—a button-eyed, juvenile Olive Oyl, Akiko, 10, is persuaded by a pair of aliens named Bip and Bop to climb out her high-rise bedroom’s window for a trip to M&M-shaped Planet Smoo, where Prince Fropstoppit has been kidnapped by widely feared villainness Alia Rellaport. Along with an assortment of contentious sidekicks, including brainy Mr. Beeba, Akiko battles Sky Pirates and video-game-style monsters in prolonged scenes of cartoony violence, displaying resilience, courage, and leadership ability, but not getting very far in her rescue attempt; in fact, the story cuts off so abruptly, with so little of the quest completed, and at a lull in the action to boot, that readers expecting a self-contained (forget complete) story are likely to feel cheated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32724-2

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came To Town (1999). (Fiction. 11-13)


Preachy, predictable tale of an overweight lad who saves the universe while gaining self-esteem—a large step back from

Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty (1993). The odd helmet that Arthur Woodbury, a.k.a. "Biscuit Butt," receives on his 11th birthday projects him into another world—but because he doesn’t read the instructions carefully, he opens a crack in the cosmos through which all-destroying Nothing begins to seep. Acquiring an inscrutable, monkey-like sidekick, Arthur is propelled into encounters with froglike Frog People, winged Cloud People, and other residents of REM World, all of whom bolster his self-confidence with platitudes ("You are whatever you think you are. What you believe yourself to be," etc.) and send him on his way to the demon Vydel, who alone can tell him how to get back to his own dimension. Even readers uncritical enough to enjoy the author’s lame efforts at wit—burps of epic proportion, avian monsters dubbed borons ("bird" + "moron")—will find Arthur’s adventures so obviously freighted with Purpose as to be almost devoid of danger or suspense. Unsurprisingly, he has only to envision home to be there—and when he wakes up, both the cloud of Nothing and his excess poundage have melted away. Look for more engaging aliens in books like Annette Curtis Klause’s Alien Secrets and a far more memorable fat kid in Kimberly

Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came To Town (1999). (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08362-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2000

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