The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis

ALMOST INVISIBLE

A 13-year-old girl flees her abusive home to live secretly in her school.

Jewel tolerates her parents’ abuse, from the theft of her babysitting money to outright violence, in order to protect her developmentally disabled kid brother. When one of her dad’s drunken friends tries to rape her, her parents turn a blind eye. Jewel knows that she needs to run away for her own safety. She spends 10 days roughing it before she runs out of carefully hoarded food and returns to town—and to school. Jewel attends classes by day and sleeps in the art-room supply cupboard at night. Maya and Lily, two well-off girls, notice her odd behavior and seek her out. In alternating sections, Maya and Jewel share their perspectives on Jewel’s solo adventure. Though Maya’s aid is invaluable, it also leads to Jewel’s discovery by adults. Maya and Jewel, who both appear to be white, come from sharply different social classes. With no other poor families present in the story, the poverty of Jewel’s parents becomes inextricably tied to their abuse. Their bad grammar, cursing, cigarette smoking, motorcycles, and clothing (“way too young for a mother, cleavage,” thinks Maya) all paint a lazily stereotyped picture of criminal trash, in opposition to the kindly rich parents found elsewhere. When Jewel’s situation is wrapped up tidily, that frees Maya up for her next rescue project: a Syrian refugee.

The tale of Jewel’s determined struggle is moving but weakened by Maya’s bad case of savior-itis . (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-078-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Flimsily entertaining

THE SECRET OF WHITE STONE GATE

From the Black Hollow Lane series , Vol. 2

An American schoolgirl in a British boarding school battles a secret society in this adventure.

In this trope-y sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019), the students at Wellsworth must stay safe from the evil order that’s been there for generations and still entangles their parents. Emmy, a white, well-to-do Connecticut 12-year-old, is determined to return to Wellsworth even though last year she was nearly killed. The Order of Black Hollow Lane, the mysterious bad guys who are disguised as the school’s Latin Society, want something from Emmy. Her long-lost father, for one, and Emmy’s box of medallions, for another. Why? Do they really need a reason aside from being an evil club full of wickedness determined to find a whole box of MacGuffins that will somehow make them even richer and more powerful or at least propel the plot? In any case the dastardly fiends plague Emmy, framing one of her best friends for theft and leaving cryptic notes and computer files to threaten the lives of Emmy’s loved ones. Though the Order has infiltrated this (nearly all-white, wealthy) school for generations, Emmy must somehow defeat them and save her dad. The quest is peppered with spy-thriller moments that are mostly only thinly sketched and go nowhere, though some (such as a disguise right out of Scooby Doo cartoons) are funny enough to keep the action moving.

Flimsily entertaining . (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6467-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Superb storytelling.

FRANKIE & BUG

When Bug’s traditional summer routine is shaken up, her entire life changes.

It’s 1987, and 10-year-old Beatrice “Bug” Contreras has a plan: spend her summer months with her brother, Danny, on Venice Beach as she has for the past two years. But when 14-year-old Danny—who has matured into the name Daniel—wants more time to himself, Bug learns she will be instead hanging out with 11-year-old Frankie, the nephew of Phillip, her mother’s best friend and their upstairs neighbor. Frankie, who is visiting from Ohio, is trans at a time before this identity was well understood and has not been treated with kindness or acceptance by his parents. Frankie and Bug become fascinated with trying to solve the case of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been striking in the area. When Phillip is attacked, ending up in the hospital, their investigation swivels, and the titular characters uncover a few untold family tales. Bug and Daniel’s late father was a professor from El Salvador with Indigenous ancestry who spoke Nahuatl as well as Spanish and English. Biracial identity is explored in part through the differences in the siblings’ physical appearances: Their mother is implied to be White, and Daniel—who resembles their father more than Bug does—experiences more overt racism and dives into an exploration of his Salvadoran heritage. Readers interested in complex emotional development and relationships will appreciate each character's subtle nuances.

Superb storytelling. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8253-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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