A work that should help adolescent readers find the courage and humor to grow into the individuals they already are.

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PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL

A young tomboy comes of age on and off the basketball court.

In free-flowing free-verse poems, multi–award-winning author and poet Grimes (A Girl Named Mister, 2010, etc.) here explores the riot of hormones and expected gender roles that can make negotiating the preteen years such a challenge. Twelve-year-old Joylin “Jockette” Johnson prefers jeans, T-shirts and one-on-one basketball games with her father or friend Jake to conforming to the more demure, feminine image her mother has of her. Sassy, self-assured Joy enjoys the simple math of her life—“friends / plus family / plus sports”—until she begins to notice “two weird mounds ruining / the perfect flatness / of [her] chest” and gets her first period, which she deems, “the end of life / as I know it.” Beset by physical changes, Joy also finds herself witness and prey to unfamiliar behavior; Jake begins to show interest in her friend KeeLee, and Joy herself tries to adopt a more feminine persona to attract the attention of Santiago, a fellow basketballer with “sweet brown curls / bouncing above killer green eyes.” Though Grimes’ plot development is rather predictable—a life-threatening accident leads Joy to reassess her priorities—her accessible verse and clear themes of self-acceptance and open-mindedness ring true.

A work that should help adolescent readers find the courage and humor to grow into the individuals they already are. (Verse fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59990-284-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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A powerful resource for young people itching for change.

WOLFPACK (YOUNG READERS EDITION)

HOW YOUNG PEOPLE WILL FIND THEIR VOICE, UNITE THEIR PACK, AND CHANGE THE WORLD

Soccer star and activist Wambach adapts Wolfpack (2019), her New York Times bestseller for adults, for a middle-grade audience.

YOU. ARE. THE. WOLVES.” That rallying cry, each word proudly occupying its own line on the page, neatly sums up the fierce determination Wambach demands of her audience. The original Wolfpack was an adaptation of the viral 2018 commencement speech she gave at Barnard College; in her own words, it was “a directive to unleash [the graduates’] individuality, unite the collective, and change the world.” This new adaption takes the themes of the original and recasts them in kid-friendly terms, the call to action feeling more relevant now than ever. With the exception of the introduction and closing remarks, each short chapter presents a new leadership philosophy, dishing out such timeless advice as “Be grateful and ambitious”; “Make failure your fuel”; “Champion each other”; and “Find your pack.” Chapters utilize “rules” as a framing device. The first page of each presents a generalized “old” and “new” rule pertaining to that chapter’s guiding principle, and each chapter closes with a “Call to the Wolfpack” that sums up those principles in more specific terms. Some parts of the book come across as somewhat quixotic or buzzword-heavy, but Wambach deftly mitigates much of the preachiness with a bluff, congenial tone and refreshing dashes of self-deprecating humor. Personal anecdotes help ground each of the philosophies in applicability, and myriad heavy issues are respectfully, yet simply broached.

A powerful resource for young people itching for change. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76686-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking.

TEEN KILLERS CLUB

An accused murderer is thrust into an assassin training program.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere is serving hard time after a hazy night with her former best friend, Rose, which ended with Rose’s body in her lap, an emotional trial, and the media moniker the “Girl from Hell.” After her caseworker, Dave, assures Signal there’s no way she’ll get a successful appeal, he offers her an alternative: being shipped off to a mysterious camp and enrolled in a top-secret government training program unofficially known as the Teen Killers Club. There, Signal and other adolescent Class A felons (the most dangerous kind) undergo various drills—among them, dismembering fake corpses and dissolving flesh in acid—in preparation for eventually being used as assassins against government targets. The teens have been injected with a device remotely controlled by their trainers that will kill them if they attempt to escape the camp or otherwise disobey orders. As Signal nurses an attraction to sensitive tattooed Javier and fights her feelings for handsome sociopath Erik, she begins to piece together what really happened that night with Rose. Sparks crafts a page-turner with a disturbingly unusual premise, snappy dialogue, and characters that go deeper than their heinous crimes. Signal and Erik are assumed White; love interest Javier is cued as Latinx, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking. (Thriller. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-229-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Maybe it’s “awesome” to be average.

YOU ARE AWESOME

Champion table tennis player Syed begins this encouragement book by chronicling his own story of how he grew up believing he was average until he began to master the sport.

The goal of this book is to help kids realize that they needn’t necessarily be born with a certain gift or talent—that maybe success is a combination of hard work, the right mentors, and a strong support system. In the chapter “What’s Holding Me Back?” Syed offers a variety of ways a young person can begin to reflect on who they really are and define what their true passion may be. The following chapters stress the importance of practice, coping with pressure, and honoring mistakes as human rather than failure. Throughout the book, Syed highlights those he terms “Famous Failures,” including Steve Jobs, Jay-Z, and Jennifer Lawrence, while also providing a spotlight for those who mastered their talent by perseverance, such as Serena Williams, the Brontë sisters, and David Beckham. Though this self-help book has good intentions, however, it is a little heavy-handed on the perpetuation of an achievement-oriented life. Perhaps it is also good to acknowledge that not everybody need aspire to someone else’s definition of greatness.

Maybe it’s “awesome” to be average. (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8753-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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