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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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