An optimistic journey of self-acceptance.

BOTH CAN BE TRUE

Debut author Machias’ novel explores genderfluidity and gender nonconformity as elements of navigating middle school.

Told in two alternating narrative voices, the story follows Ash and Daniel, a pair of Ohio seventh graders who are on a shared mission to rescue an old dog the world doesn’t seem to have room for, a not-so-subtle metaphor highlighting the vulnerabilities faced by all abandoned souls. Throughout their growing kinship, Ash and Daniel struggle with the divergent expectations of those around them: Ash with shifting gender presentations and Daniel with his emotionality and sensitivity. Entering a new school and feeling pressured to pick and disclose a single gender, Ash’s conflicts begin with trying to decide whether to use the boys’, girls’, or gender-neutral bathroom. The school’s diverse Rainbow Alliance is a source of support, but Ash’s parents remain split by more than divorce, with a supportive mom and a dad who tries but fails to understand genderfluidity. Daniel, who has a talent for photography, is a passionate animal lover who volunteers at a local kennel and initially believes Ash is a girl. Ash’s synesthesia amplifies the tension as Ash and Daniel discover a mutual romantic interest. The novel grapples with the impact of society’s overly simplistic messages, but the characterizations at times lack depth, and there are missed opportunities to explore the subtleties of relationships. Main characters are White.

An optimistic journey of self-acceptance. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305389-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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