Kara’s boy-crazy experiment lends refreshing perspective on teen relationships, and the results point to self-enlightenment.

READ REVIEW

THE BOY PROJECT

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS OF KARA MCALLISTER

Looking for a boyfriend takes on a whole new meaning when 14-year-old Kara starts her research project.

Kara, a self-proclaimed geek, decides to find a boyfriend using the scientific method.  This initially involves covert observation of her subject: boys. She keeps detailed index cards, and the novel is decorated with her charts, graphs and lists. The project eventually becomes a science-fair project that also utilizes Facebook for a love survey. When her best friend Tabbi gets a boyfriend first, unfortunately with Kara’s crush, it takes Kara some time to remember that she needs her best friend more than a she needs a boyfriend. This middle-school drama is hip to the moment, with break-up texting, kissing and popularity tug of wars. The boy obsession becomes tiresome, but Kara’s irrepressible spirit, clever wit and introspection save this story from vapidity. Kara’s hilarious observations, as when she compares feigning happiness to the difficulty of fastening the, like, 15 hooks of her 87-year-old grandma’s bra, keep it buoyant. As she becomes increasingly discerning, Kara realizes that being true to oneself is the coolest asset.

Kara’s boy-crazy experiment lends refreshing perspective on teen relationships, and the results point to self-enlightenment. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-34515-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.

FISH IN A TREE

Hunt draws a portrait of dyslexia and getting along.

Ally Nickerson, who’s passed through seven schools in seven years, maintains a Sketchbook of Impossible Things. A snowman in a furnace factory is more plausible than imagining herself doing something right—like reading. She doesn't know why, but letters dance and give her headaches. Her acting out to disguise her difficulty causes headaches for her teachers, who, oddly, never consider dyslexia, even though each notices signs like inconsistent spellings of the same word. Ally's confusion is poignant when misunderstandings like an unintentional sympathy card for a pregnant teacher make her good intentions backfire, and readers will sympathize as she copes with the class "mean girls." When a creative new teacher, Mr. Daniels, steps in, the plot turns more uplifting but also metaphor-heavy; a coin with a valuable flaw, cupcakes with hidden letters, mystery boxes and references to the Island of Misfit Toys somewhat belabor the messages that things aren't always what they seem and everyone is smart in their own ways. Despite emphasis on "thinking outside the box," characters are occasionally stereotypical—a snob, a brainiac, an unorthodox teacher—but Ally's new friendships are satisfying, as are the recognition of her dyslexia and her renewed determination to read.

Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16259-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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