A solid story that explores themes of family, abandonment, and belonging.

A MONTH OF MONDAYS

Grade-seven student Suze Tamaki decides whether or not to reconnect with her 10-years-absent mother.

Suze is comfortable: she has her father and older sister at home and her apathy at school. That is, until she comes home to find her absentee mother, Caroline. Suze’s sister, Tracie, tries to stop Suze from spending time with Caroline by invoking a pact they signed years before, causing strain between the sisters. While Suze struggles with feelings of abandonment, she decides to give her mother another chance, a choice made with such understanding that it pushes credulity. However, Suze’s voice shines with authenticity, which balances her sometimes unbelievable decisions. Meanwhile, at school, Suze’s English teacher sees through her likable antihero persona and slyly partners her with a model-student friend for a special project. Surprisingly, Suze finds she wants to do well, which will win her a permanent place in Honors English. Eventually, things with Caroline, Tracie, and school come to a head, but all ends well without resolving too neatly. Suze, half Japanese-Canadian and half Anglo-Canadian, is disconnected from her Japanese heritage, which allows the narrative to skirt issues that sometimes come with being biracial and a minority. Also unfortunate are the digs at A.J., Suze’s strong, mother-figure aunt, whose weight is overemphasized.

A solid story that explores themes of family, abandonment, and belonging. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77260-026-1

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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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