Funny, cheering, and narratively fulfilling.


From the Tangled Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Can a popular athlete and the class oddball find $13 million worth of missing 19th-century jewels?

Sloane—aka Slayer Sloane, the Volleyball Queen—really, really doesn’t want to do the class project with Amelia, who dresses up in costumes and makes melodramatic YouTube videos. Amelia doesn’t care about staying under the radar like a normal seventh grader, which makes her a target of bullies. But Amelia does have some pretty good ideas about how to handle the assignment: namely, solving “the Mysterious Case of the Missing Jewels.” Way back in 1887, two best friends in rural northwest Ohio had a falling out: Thomas Kerr, circus clown and carpenter, stole fabulous jewels from millionaire Jacob Hoäl, after which both men died in the same tragic train crash. As the secrets of the past unfold, the girls (who are both White) learn of two tragic and angry families in which people in generation after generation died young. Even as their friendship grows, a foreshadowing narrator makes clear they’ll eventually be brought to a dangerous crisis. The moral journey, unambiguous but not cloying, builds to a crescendo featuring a cinematic monologue as satisfying as hot soup on a cold day. The unraveling of the town’s mysterious past is evocative of Louis Sachar’s Holes.

Funny, cheering, and narratively fulfilling. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9579-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.


From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.


Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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