Plot twists that’ll turn even veteran readers’ heads.

READ REVIEW

THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O'REILLY

Forgotten brothers, lost children, and the deep bonds of family and forgiveness come together with a touch of the supernatural in Ansari’s ghostly middle-grade thriller.

Twelve-year-old Charlie’s younger brother, Liam, has disappeared, but Charlie is the only one who remembers that he ever existed. For a year, Charlie has watched his family steadily fall apart in his brother’s absence: his mother slipping further into her depression, his father constantly away on business, and Charlie himself sitting through endless (and useless) therapy sessions and enduring vivid nightmares of century-old tragedies. His only solace is his best friend, who believes Charlie about Liam even if she also doesn’t remember him, and a young new baseball coach who tells Charlie of a hidden home for children so burdened by regret that they wish themselves never born—a tale that holds not only the answers to Liam’s disappearance and Charlie’s dreams, but a great deal more. Ansari trusts her audience with a complex narrative that traverses the breadth of time and the depths of self. The weave of guilt, family struggle, and forgiveness both complicates and complements questions of love and self-acceptance. The tiresome trope of the self-hating gay character briefly rears its head, and the romanticization of Mom’s depression veers away from what could be a fully nuanced representation—a few flaws that mar an otherwise excellent debut. The book assumes a white default.

Plot twists that’ll turn even veteran readers’ heads. (Supernatural mystery. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267966-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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.

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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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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