Chase’s middle-grade debut dazzles in its exploration of the complicated lives of two very different young black girls in...

SO DONE

Metai Johnson and Jamila Phillips have been inseparable since they were toddlers, but now the pressures of hard secrets and new friends threaten to sever their friendship in the wake of a summer apart.

The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Mila and Tai, allowing each distinctive character an authentic and complex voice as they navigate difficult issues facing many American preteens. Mila (also known as Bean, but she’d just as soon not be) is just returning from a summer at Aunt Jacq’s in The Woods, away from her less-affluent neighborhood, the Cove. Tai can’t wait to see her, especially as she’s grown close with her crush, Roland, and needs her best friend to share the rush. Yet as they reunite, both friends begin to realize that something is tangibly different—and the roots of this difference may be in an uncomfortable incident that took place the previous April at Tai’s. The emerging conflict will surely come to a head as they both prepare for the high-stakes audition for the local talented-and-gifted arts program, where they hope to continue to develop themselves as dancers and to stay away from the dangerous pull of street life. The author weaves in a keen sense of black youth culture, including emoji-filled text messages, fly hairstyles, and beloved nicknames that won’t go away, while powerful, flowing use of African-American Vernacular English gives the novel warmth, spirit, and familiarity.

Chase’s middle-grade debut dazzles in its exploration of the complicated lives of two very different young black girls in language that will meet its primary audience of black girl readers in their hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269178-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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