BRAINS FOR LUNCH

“Brains for lunch again / ‘Stop moaning and just eat it.’ / Lunch lady humor.” Middle schooler Loeb (pun intended) is a Zombie. The “Zs” reluctantly share a school with “Lifers” and a few “Chupos” (Chupacabras). Tensions run so high that few cross the line. Then Lifer girl Siobhan seems to be everywhere. Is she just selling her potions or does she have another motive for consorting with Zs? Loeb decides to prove all Zombies aren’t idiots by entering the school poetry contest, to great effect: The Zombie gets the girl. Holt’s “zombie novel in haiku” is haiku in shape only; the nature focus and revelatory final line are missing from these triplets. The arc of Loeb’s story is often hard to follow due to the constraints of the verse, and his triumph at the poetry slam and getting the girl just aren’t believable. Wilson’s line drawings are good, gross-out fun, but they can’t carry the flimsy plot. An interesting notion squeezed into what feels like a school poetry assignment gone overlong. Final art not seen. (Novel in verse. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-629-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar.

SÉANCE TEA PARTY

As a girl struggles to navigate adolescence, she finds support from an unlikely source.

In this graphic novel, 12-year-old Lora Xi finds herself increasingly isolated. While her best friend and her classmates seem obsessed with parties, boys, and texting, her interests have remained fixed on witches, ghosts, and nostalgic activities of childhood. While throwing herself a séance tea party in the attic, she discovers a ghost, a girl about her age, named Alexa. The two become fast friends, with Alexa gently prodding Lora to reach out to peers and slowly engage in more social events. The energetic, flowing graphics embellished with colorful details reveal complex narratives for both characters. With the help of some old friends, Alexa eventually discovers more about her long-forgotten past, having lived in the same town 50 years prior. Lora finds the courage to participate in more social events while staying authentic. But the two friends gradually find their goals diverging, which leads to an emotional climax. While this is Yee’s middle-grade debut, she is a veteran of comic books, and it shows. She artfully balances complex character arcs and suspense while bringing a touch of fantasy and wonder without overcrowding the plot. Lora is of Chinese descent, and Alexa is White; Lora’s middle-class North American community is vibrantly diverse.

A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12532-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A wonderfully frightening tale.

NO PLACE FOR MONSTERS

From the No Place for Monsters series , Vol. 1

Children are snatched from their beds and erased from all memory.

Levi and Kat often feel like they’re the only ones out of place in their small suburban town of Cowslip Grove. The two children feel a slight remove from their classmates and families; the one thing binding them together is their ability to see what everyone else cannot: Children are disappearing. And no one else seems to remember these children ever existed. After Levi’s younger sister, Twila, is taken by this evil force, Levi and Kat embark on a journey into the town’s sinister past to try to save her and stop the monster once and for all. The spooky tale is complemented by ink illustrations that will give even the bravest reader a case of the willies. The narrative is smartly structured, moving the characters forward at a perfect pace that balances the tricky trifecta of thrills, exposition, and character development. This is one hell of a middle-grade read, the kind that will spark imaginations as it is read late at night under the covers with a flashlight. Levi and Kat appear White; the black-and-white illustrations seem to show some human ethnic diversity. (This review has been updated to reflect changes to the final book.)

A wonderfully frightening tale. (Horror. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12853-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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