Using baseball as a guide for dating, Beam, in his U.S. debut, hits a grand-slam. When seventh-grader Darcy Spillman becomes smitten with beautiful and popular Danalda Chase, he hopes to “get to first base” with her. Of course, first he has to ask her out, and Darcy isn’t sure Danalda even knows he exists. Normally, Darcy would turn to his Grandpa Spillman for advice, but Grandpa is showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Instead, he turns to the new girl, Kamna, who suggests that Darcy should try out for the Cheetahs, his middle school’s baseball team. That would certainly win Danalda’s favor. Unfortunately, when the two finally go out, Danalda lives up to her reputation of being superficial, leaving Darcy unimpressed. It turns out that it’s Kamna he’d rather be with. Using baseball terms as his chapter headings, followed by definitions, Beam has managed to write a story that is fresh, funny and appealing to lovers and lovers of baseball, both male and female. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-525-47578-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2006

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A 15-year-old boy with OCD struggles for mental health. Obsessed with cleanliness, germs, order, and the number four, Devon Brown feels compelled to wash his hands frequently, line up his books perfectly, and eat four of everything. Hoping to give Devon a fresh start (again), his concerned parents move, hire a new therapist, and enroll Devon in private school. The story, which never develops the dramatic urgency of Harrar’s Parents Wanted, gathers steam when one of Devon’s new acquaintances talks him into going to the school after-hours, then defaces the property with spray paint. Devon, who accompanied the boy because he felt the need to straighten a crooked poster in the biology room, is seen at the school, accused of the crime, and suspended. The reader is supposed to see a connection between Devon’s obsessions and the trouble he gets into, but the correlation is weak, and despite the intriguing topic, the protagonist never becomes more than a sum of his neuroses. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 24, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-26365-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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Nothing could be more crucial than the start of seventh grade thinks Kat, but when Cheddar, the family dog is in a life-threatening accident, Kat goes off the rails. Normally well-behaved and responsible, Kat takes some shortcuts to get to the veterinary clinic that involves borrowing a bike and cutting school. The consequences are not so serious for cutting school, but the bike she borrows is stolen while Kat is getting the update on Cheddar. Kat never hesitates to admit her responsibility and her parents loan her the money until she can earn enough to pay for it herself. Kat’s friends, neighbors, and family are given small roles to play, yet are lively and help to flesh out this somewhat slight story. Once reassured that Cheddar will make it through his injuries, the notoriety of being accused of bike theft becomes the main conflict. A subplot related to the woman whose car hit Cheddar and also suffers from Alzheimer’s provides for some emotional eruptions as well as a few moments of introspection. However, rather than a rich blend of conflicts, the result is one that seems unfocused and scattered. The adults are mostly benevolent and wise; trusted to understand Kat, despite her own failures. An older sister is intriguingly sticky-fingered when it comes to Kat’s stuff, and their sibling exchanges provide the most consistently enjoyable dialogue. For light-hearted readers reluctant to truly examine moral conflicts, and wanting fiction that takes place in a safe world, this does the job. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7613-1790-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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