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WHERE THE HEART IS

With pleasant but meandering writing and little urgency, this one’s best for character-oriented readers.

Her 14th summer teaches Rachel the meaning of the word bittersweet.

All her life she and her parents and her little sister, Ivy, who’s 8, have lived in an old farmhouse they’ve named Bittersweet Farm, for the vines on the property that her mother makes into wreaths. It’s not a working farm, but they have a big garden and an elderly rescue pony. Rachel’s mother has lost her job as a school librarian, so money is tight, but Rachel is chiefly concerned with her relationship with her best friend, Micah, who would love to be her boyfriend if Rachel allowed. Rachel isn’t sure of her sexuality, and she is anxious around schoolmates who are richer and more self-assured. She spends the summer at the nearby beach and caring for the animals on a rich neighbor’s hobby farm. Then their family loses their home to foreclosure. Told in Rachel’s authentically 13-year-old first-person voice, the story suffers from uneven pacing. At first readers are led to think that Rachel’s relationships and sexuality will be the story’s main focus. Whole chapters are spent describing the neighbor’s farm, which turns out to be unimportant to the plot, and the foreclosure, which turns out to be the primary plot point, isn’t mentioned until two-thirds of the way through the book. The economic stressors this default-white family faces are well-presented.

With pleasant but meandering writing and little urgency, this one’s best for character-oriented readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0003-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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THE ONE AND ONLY FAMILY

From the One and Only series , Vol. 4

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series.

Beloved gorilla Ivan becomes a father to rambunctious twins in this finale to a quartet that began with 2012’s Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan.

Life hasn’t always been easy for silverback gorilla Ivan, who’s spent most of his life being mistreated in captivity. Now he’s living in a wildlife sanctuary, but he still gets to see his two best friends. Young elephant Ruby lives in the grassy habitat next door, and former stray dog Bob has a home with one of the zookeepers. All three were rescued from the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan’s expanded world includes fellow gorilla Kinyani—the two are about to become parents, and Ivan is revisiting the traumas of his past in light of what he wants the twins to know. When the subject inevitably comes up, Applegate’s trust and respect for readers is evident. She doesn’t shy away from hard truths as Ivan wrestles with the fact that poachers killed his family. Readers will need the context provided by knowledge of the earlier books to feel the full emotional impact of this story. The rushed ending unfortunately falls flat, detracting from the central message that a complex life can still contain hope. Final art not seen.

Not the most satisfying wrap-up, but it’s always good to spend time in the world of this series. (gorilla games, glossary, author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063221123

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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