A sensitive coming-of-age tale about waking up to injustice and where that knowledge can lead.

BREAKOUT

Seen through the eyes of three seventh-graders, a prison escape upends daily life in a small Adirondack town.

Wolf Creek’s economy revolves around its maximum security prison. Nora’s dad is its superintendent; Lizzie’s grandma works in the kitchen; Elidee’s brother is an inmate. Nora and Lizzie, white, are best friends. Arriving in this very white town with her mother two weeks before school ends, Elidee, black, feels isolated. She and her mother only moved to Wolf Creek because she didn’t get into an elite private school back in New York City. Nora first finds her unfriendly. Elidee’s reluctance to join in shows of support for the corrections staff, police, and volunteers engaged in the manhunt affronts her. With Lizzie’s help she opens her eyes to the slights, subtle and overt, Elidee endures from some local whites. Most townspeople and prison staff are white; most inmates are black and Latinx. The manhunt broadens, reaching Lizzie’s family and severely straining it. Elidee pours her anger and unhappiness into writing poetry, discovering her authentic voice. The story unfolds in time-capsule entries. Press clippings, text messages, and voice recordings effectively convey the racism hiding in plain sight, while the girls’ letters provide the narrative throughline. Not all entries work—Owen’s repetitive cartoons add little—but the format underlines the breakout’s communitywide impact.

A sensitive coming-of-age tale about waking up to injustice and where that knowledge can lead. (author’s note, bibliography) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-536-0

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

HOLES

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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