Although she struggles in her efforts to resolve her managing ways, Lara’s genuine kindness and compassion remain evident in...

THE FRIENDSHIP MATCHMAKER GOES UNDERCOVER

From the Friendship Matchmaker series , Vol. 2

Seventh-grader Lara discovers just how difficult it can be to change established habits.

As the former FMM—or friendship matchmaker—of her middle school, Lara was accustomed to managing the social lives of her peers. Now she has vowed to refrain from matchmaking, but Lara still feels compelled to intervene. When a new student’s arrival alters the social balance, Lara clandestinely resumes her role as FMM in order to fulfill an unusual request: seek out a potential friend for Chris, a student known for his malicious, bullying behavior. Abdel-Fattah adeptly addresses the social concerns of early adolescents in this perceptive tale. As Lara attempts to find a match for Chris, the circumstances that influence his negative actions are subtly revealed. When Lara cleverly pairs Chris with Antony, an enthusiastic yet unskilled athlete, the opportunity to be a mentor has a profound effect on Chris and his behavior. In addition to arranging the relationships of others, Lara must also resolve her own friendship insecurities. Amid these familiar friendship concerns, Abdel-Fattah also addresses other complex issues, most notably with the new student’s arrival. Through Majur’s experiences as a refugee adjusting to life in a new country, she examines the effects of war on children and their families.

Although she struggles in her efforts to resolve her managing ways, Lara’s genuine kindness and compassion remain evident in this poignant sequel. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8027-3485-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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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Lovers of bloody fantasy epics will be glad to have another.

FIREBORN

From the Fireborn series , Vol. 1

An unnamed warrior-child in training needs to defeat the inner demons that enrage her.

Twelve is an acolyte of the Hunters, a group of warriors who sever all prior ties, give up their names, and fight the darkness. Despite her prowess in battle, she’s friendless, prone to lashing out, and desperate to avoid thinking about her painful past. Her solitude ends when the Hunting Lodge is attacked by goblins—and worse. The only girl Twelve even remotely likes, the worst warrior of them all, is kidnapped, and Twelve hurls herself into the monstrous outer world to save her friend. But it seems she won’t be going alone. She’s joined by Dog, a massive stone beast, the irritable (and sometimes funny) fighter who guards the lodge. And soon they’re also joined by Five and Six, the two most hateful boys among the huntlings. At least Twelve can lean on her squirrel friend, Widge, a gift from kidnapped Seven. The northern wilds are a frozen wasteland filled with terrifying monsters, and if the young warriors are to survive they’ll have to learn to trust each other (and themselves). A few threads are left dangling for the next entry in the series. Late-discovered magic provides a deus ex machina in a quest that’s otherwise about inner knowledge and cooperation. All the human characters appear to be White.

Lovers of bloody fantasy epics will be glad to have another. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299671-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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