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SHANNON IN THE SPOTLIGHT

A solid read with valid representation.

A 12-year-old girl navigates OCD and rocky friendships while discovering her theatrical talents.

Shannon Carter looks forward to summers, when she and her two best friends take part in the local youth theater’s annual musical. Egyptian American hijabi Fatima is devoted to working behind the scenes, while performer Elise loves the spotlight. Shannon, who is cued White like Elise, describes herself as a hardcore techie, happy to stay out of sight focusing on costumes and props, but when the director overhears her singing, he insists she audition. One whirlwind song later, she’s cast as Brigitta von Trapp, the role Elise desperately wanted in this year’s show, The Sound of Music. Now Elise is ignoring her, and Fatima’s so busy backstage she has no time to talk. What’s more, following a house fire, Shannon’s maternal grandmother is temporarily moving in, and she’s quite the abrasive personality, often criticizing Shannon’s mom’s parenting, particularly how she handles Shannon’s OCD. Shannon’s therapist suggests they try some exposure therapy activities, and there’s this new boy at the theater who’s pretty cute—Micah, who reads Black. It’s a lot to deal with. The book thoughtfully portrays Shannon as having agency in handling her OCD symptoms; they affect her life without controlling it. A natural-born performer despite her initial apprehension, she finds being on stage exciting and fulfilling, offering readers a positive role model for living with mental illness.

A solid read with valid representation. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-48605-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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HOLES

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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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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