A disappointing (probable) end to a series that should have been better, given its promising concept.

THE SECRET OF THE KEY

From the Sixty-Eight Rooms series , Vol. 4

In the concluding Sixty-Eight Rooms adventure, Ruthie and Jack finally recognize the enormous power and great danger that magic can bring.

In the past, shrinking down and exploring the miniature Thorne Rooms was thrilling. Who wouldn’t want to explore more? But Ruthie and Jack don’t know the full extent of the magic. A letter they find from Narcissa Thorne, the woman who created the Thorne Rooms, puts everything into perspective. The warning of danger becomes all too real. Cycling through more time-travel excursions than ever before—some only a scant five pages long and some with no apparent purpose to the narrative—Ruthie and Jack find themselves in multiple cities of 18th-century England, in the middle of the Boxer Rebellion in China and, through a surprising portal, at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Along the way they learn more rules of time travel and realize that it is possible to get stuck in a time period with no way of return. Multiple adventures and seemingly tense moments should spark the pace, but the story plods along, never reaching its full potential. (By book’s end, the magic may need to be shut off, but the opportunity to reignite it still exists. Malone is keeping options open.)

A disappointing (probable) end to a series that should have been better, given its promising concept. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-97721-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure.

CITY SPIES

From the City Spies series , Vol. 1

This thriller reads like Miss Congeniality meets Kingsman, starring Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Anishinaabe-kwe water protector Autumn Peltier…kind of.

Puerto Rican–born, Brooklyn-raised Sara isn’t expecting much from her court-appointed lawyer—she has no reason to put faith in the system that put her in jail after she hacked into the city’s computers to expose her foster parents as abusive frauds. But with juvie her only other prospect, Sara takes a leap and agrees to a wild proposition: She’ll join Britain’s MI6 as a kid operative. When she arrives at the covert facility in Scotland, she meets the other kids the MI6 agent, a white Englishman affectionately called Mother, has taken in—all of them, like Sara, have highly developed skills in logic, puzzles, sneakiness, and other useful spy tactics. Mother has a mission for them; he’s taking them to Paris to a competition for youth environmental innovation, where their job is to perform just well enough to make it into the top 10 so they can protect the eccentric billionaire sponsor of the contest from an imminent threat. It’s a fun romp with timely but superficial things to say about environmental activism, though the recruitment process and messy organization stretches the imagination even with a hardy suspension of disbelief. For a spy story, it’s surprisingly interior focused rather than action packed. The cast is technically diverse in ethnic background, but this has next to no influence on the characters.

It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1491-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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