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I SPEAK BOY

A hilarious, heartwarming middle school drama.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Seventh grader Emmy Woods is a lot of things. Consummate schemer. Aspiring app developer. Risk taker. And where her best friend, Harper, is concerned, she’s “Emerie Woods: Love Coordinator.” But a matchmaking attempt goes horribly wrong, and Emmy knows exactly who to blame: boys, “humanity’s greatest unsolved mystery.” When she wakes up one morning with a new app on her phone that translates the hitherto-hidden thoughts of boys, she thinks she’s hit the jackpot and starts making matches left and right. But when the secret of the app falls into the wrong hands, Emmy must face the consequences of meddling in others’ love lives. Emmy is a lively, engaging narrator, and even the most minor characters are richly imbued with distinctive quirks, desires, and traumas. Brody expertly teases romances, fractured friendships, and plot twists, keeping readers guessing at every turn. Echoes of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which the language arts class is reading, provide added spice. Emmy is White, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast. In a jarring note seemingly equating Whiteness with being American, the book states that Harper’s black hair is from her Korean-born father, but she got “her hazel eyes and fair complexion from her mom, who was born right here in Highbury.”

A hilarious, heartwarming middle school drama. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-17368-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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

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. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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MILLIONAIRES FOR THE MONTH

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable.

A reward of $5,000,000 almost ruins everything for two seventh graders.

On a class trip to New York City, Felix and Benji find a wallet belonging to social media billionaire Laura Friendly. Benji, a well-off, chaotic kid with learning disabilities, swipes $20 from the wallet before they send it back to its owner. Felix, a poor, shy, rule-follower, reluctantly consents. So when Laura Friendly herself arrives to give them a reward for the returned wallet, she’s annoyed. To teach her larcenous helpers a lesson, Laura offers them a deal: a $20,000 college scholarship or slightly over $5 million cash—but with strings attached. The boys must spend all the money in 30 days, with legal stipulations preventing them from giving anything away, investing, or telling anyone about it. The glorious windfall quickly grows to become a chore and then a torment as the boys appear increasingly selfish and irresponsible to the adults in their lives. They rent luxury cars, hire a (wonderful) philosophy undergrad as a chauffeur, take their families to Disney World, and spend thousands on in-app game purchases. Yet, surrounded by hedonistically described piles of loot and filthy lucre, the boys long for simpler fundamentals. The absorbing spending spree reads like a fun family film, gleefully stuffed with the very opulence it warns against. Major characters are White.

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable. (mathematical explanations) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17525-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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