Although broken parents are common fodder these days, this debut story is a standout.

FAMILY GAME NIGHT AND OTHER CATASTROPHES

“It’s like trying to save the Titanic by bailing water with a teaspoon.” That’s how Annabelle regards her life ever since her mother’s hoarding took over the house and her father left.

The stuff is piled everywhere in the white family’s house: old milk bottles, stacked by long-ago expiration dates; egg cartons; ceiling-high piles of newspapers sorted by weather forecasts; and broken toys in huge mounds in Annabelle’s 10-year-old sister Leslie’s room. Her older brother’s room is stacked with exercise equipment and paint cans. Only Annabelle’s room is clean, but she keeps it that way by exercising a calming, obsessive ritual of prowling the exterior walls searching for potential maternal stashes. Annabelle’s managed to keep word from spreading, but finally Leslie waves the white flag by notifying their distant, controlling grandmother, who immediately intervenes by moving in and launching a running battle with Annabelle’s mom. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s smart, perceptive voice is fresh and realistic, alternating between plucky determination to keep her broken family running and a vulnerable undercurrent of believable despair. Her evolving relationship with a classmate provides a tender counterpoint to her heartbreaking home situation. Well-drawn and sympathetic characters (even, eventually, Annabelle’s parents) drive this immersive tale that concludes with a satisfying but plausible hint of hope.

Although broken parents are common fodder these days, this debut story is a standout. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93198-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more