Haddix’s insightful tale is a compelling blend of sports, action and mystery.

GAME CHANGER

An elite athlete, KT is on the fast track to softball stardom when her world is turned upside down.

The eighth-grader’s life drastically changes when she collapses while pitching during a major tournament. Awakening to an alternate reality, KT discovers the traditional roles of academics and sports have been reversed. Now, KT’s younger and supremely nonathletic brother, Max, is the focus of family life due to his status on the school’s math team. Yet KT soon realizes she is not the only one who wants out of this other world. Ultimately, she must figure out the common ground among an athlete, a genius and a video gamer and determine what issues drove them into this altered reality. While the premise of the sports/academics switch provides some humorous scenarios, it also conveys a powerful message. Haddix illuminates the pressure middle school–aged students often feel to conform to predetermined roles. Her cleverly constructed tale gives a voice to all students, encouraging them to look beyond the labels of sporty, smart and so on, to define themselves. KT’s transition from athlete to advocate is calculated to inspire readers to celebrate their individuality.

Haddix’s insightful tale is a compelling blend of sports, action and mystery. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-689-87380-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

MAPPING THE BONES

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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