Despite playing into some stereotypes, this will hit a sweet spot for tweens.

GIRL STUFF.

Friendship is tested when three girls start middle school and are together at the same school for the first time.

Fonda, Drew, and Ruthie have been neighbors and best friends since they were little. Fonda, excited to be attending school without being overshadowed by an older sister, can’t wait to have a group she can depend on in the face of an intimidating popular girl clique. Drew, who was at a private school, is looking forward to not having to wear a uniform and to going to the same school as Will, a cute boy she met over the summer. Ruthie, who is coming from an alternative school with a long list of rules, has high expectations for public school. However, Fonda’s plans are immediately disrupted when Ruthie is put in the tiny gifted and talented program, whose students are kept separate from everyone else. The writing is funny and will land well with a tween audience, as will the theme of shifting friendship. Fonda is forced to confront her controlling and manipulative ways as she tries to make her friends conform to her plan for popularity. Her behavior feeds into girl-drama clichés, but the portrayal of the other girls, who face the repercussions of succumbing to peer pressure and sacrificing what they truly want, is more well rounded. All main characters are cued as White.

Despite playing into some stereotypes, this will hit a sweet spot for tweens. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984814-98-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Another bundle of lightly delivered life lessons wrapped in a cozy blanket of wish fulfillment.

MY LIFE AS A BILLIONAIRE

From the My Life series , Vol. 10

A winning lottery ticket gives 12-year-old Derek Fallon a taste of what it’s like to have massive, fantastic wealth!

As in his previous nine My Life series outings, Derek discovers that opportunity brings ups, downs, and negotiations with both himself and others. When the Powerball ticket that he gets in lieu of the $40 he was promised for helping his friend’s big brother, Jamie, move some equipment comes up a winner, the first check alone is big enough to cover not only personal indulgences like a pair of $9,000 sneakers, but a cool BMX wheelchair for his buddy Umberto and a massive donation to the Greta Thunberg Foundation. It also leaves him feeling like an outsider, since everyone now treats him differently, and guilty to have so much without having earned it. Luckily, he also has common-sensical friends to keep his head straight and indulgent but rock-solid parents to check his wilder impulses while filling him in on the basics of money management. He also has Jamie, with whom he agreed to split the proceeds and who goes hog wild with his share, as a cautionary example when questions arise about the ticket’s legitimacy. Stick figure drawings in the margins add wry visual definitions and commentary to Derek’s dazed and dazzled narrative. The cast presents as White throughout.

Another bundle of lightly delivered life lessons wrapped in a cozy blanket of wish fulfillment. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26181-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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