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THE OJJA-WOJJA

Spooky, queer, and magical—it’s no mystery why this book is a wonder.

Outsider teens battle a reawakened, hungry ancient spirit.

Small towns like Bolingbroke don’t take kindly to misfits. Fortunately, that helps unique souls like Valentine and Lanie find each other. Friends since sixth grade, Val, who is White and autistic, and Lanie, who is Vietnamese American and trans, team up for an independent project about local paranormal lore. It’s the perfect collaboration—Val loves the supernatural, and Lanie’s into witchcraft. After an eerie encounter with a horse-riding phantom on their first night of ghost-hunting, Val runs into the town “crazy lady,” who recites an unsettling rhyme about the Ojja-Wojja, a mysterious presence said to be haunting the woods around the town. The friends have research to do, all of which is complicated by Andrea, Lanie’s cruel swim teammate who becomes a nonconsenting host for the forest spirit. Meanwhile, Lanie grapples with the realization that she might like girls. Val’s neurodivergent tendency toward infodumping is conveyed through inspired expository scenes that draw from TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Sailor Moon. The illustrations and storytelling blend the fanciful beauty of Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle’s teen wolf drama, Squad (2021), and the creeping dread of Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods (2014). The pieces of this character-driven, inclusive graphic novel come together perfectly, creating a satisfying read that honors teen friendship.

Spooky, queer, and magical—it’s no mystery why this book is a wonder. (Graphic fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-285239-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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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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THE FORT

A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes.

A gaggle of eighth graders find the coolest clubhouse ever.

Fulfilling the fantasies of anyone who’s ever constructed a fort in their bedroom or elsewhere, Korman hands his five middle schoolers a fully stocked bomb shelter constructed decades ago in the local woods by an eccentric tycoon and lost until a hurricane exposes the entrance. So, how to keep the hideout secret from interfering grown-ups—and, more particularly, from scary teen psychopath Jaeger Devlin? The challenge is tougher still when everyone in the central cast is saddled with something: C.J. struggles to hide injuries inflicted by the unstable stepdad his likewise abused mother persists in enabling; Jason is both caught in the middle of a vicious divorce and unable to stand up to his controlling girlfriend; Evan is not only abandoned by drug-abusing parents, but sees his big brother going to the bad thanks to Jaeger’s influence; Mitchell struggles with OCD–fueled anxieties and superstitions; and so forth. How to keep a story overtaxed with issues and conflicts from turning into a dreary slog? Spoiler alert: Neither the author nor his characters ultimately prove equal to the challenge. With the possible exception of Ricky Molina, one of the multiple narrators, everyone seems to be White.

A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-62914-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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