Vail’s gift for channeling adolescent angst is the icing on this funny, moving tale.


An eighth grader’s world is thrown into turmoil when her best friend publicly identifies another girl as such instead.

Required to team up with a best friend in gym class, Niki’s mortified when Ava chooses Britney, leaving Niki by default with “wonky, nerdy, wholesome” Holly, her best friend in third grade (before Ava moved here to Snug Island, Maine). Bonding with Holly and her friends holds little appeal. Niki’s desperate to restore the status quo, but Ava won’t answer her texts and now hangs out with the superpopular Squad. Confronted, Ava defends her behavior by attacking Niki, who’s still mourning their lost friendship. Niki’s social anxiety echoes her mother’s. (She exhausts herself pretending that Niki’s little brother, Danny, is doing fine; later, testing places him on the autism spectrum.) Niki feels guilty for repeatedly blowing off Holly, who single-handedly saves Danny’s ninth birthday party. While Danny’s needs and crises increasingly demand parental attention, Niki herself becomes a person of interest to neighbor and classmate Milo. Occasionally, the plot spirals into melodrama; Holly’s mature intelligence and Ava’s manipulative selfishness can seem excessive next to the perfect-pitch presentation of other characters, Niki especially. Danny—high-functioning but self-absorbed, sweet but annoying, impervious yet vulnerable—is an appealing standout among fictional characters on the spectrum, a fully rounded individual. Niki and her family are white, as are most—but not all—of her classmates.

Vail’s gift for channeling adolescent angst is the icing on this funny, moving tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-47945-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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