Haunting, engrossing, and thoughtful.

THE IN-BETWEEN

Chicago siblings Cooper and Jess unravel a mystery involving Elena, their strange new neighbor, and a series of historical disasters.

Cooper’s been cold and withdrawn from family and friends alike ever since his parents’ marriage imploded and his father left them to start a new family. His younger sister, Jess, finds a nearly 100-year-old mystery—the Charfield railway disaster in England, where one of the dead was a boy, never identified, who was wearing a distinctive raven insignia that matches the one on Elena’s private school blazer. Digging into the raven emblem, they find it appears on items worn by unidentified bodies after disasters. The more Cooper and Jess investigate, the more impossible everything seems. Soon, the supernatural takes on a darker cast, as Jess and Cooper discover that they’re the ones in danger. The supernatural storyline’s fear is juxtaposed with Cooper’s inner turmoil. His intense emotional life is a constant grounding font of relatability, as he deals with anger, grief, and humiliation in the wake of his father’s abandonment. The increasingly dangerous supernatural mystery (with an exceptionally well-described climax) is intriguing enough to make this a page-turner, but the characters and their powerfully thematic emotional journeys are what will make the book linger. Absent most physical descriptors, characters default to White. Jess is diabetic, and their family deals with economic hardship and classism.

Haunting, engrossing, and thoughtful. (author’s note) (Supernatural mystery. 8-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291609-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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An enthralling fantasy adventure full of bravery, love, and humor.

THE MARVELLERS

A Black girl embarks on an unprecedented journey to tap deeper into her magic.

Ella Durand is an 11-year-old from New Orleans, where she lives with her conjure-politician father, notorious Conjuror mother, grandmother, and little sister, Winnie. Ella makes history as the first Conjuror to be accepted into the Arcanum Training Institute, where she can learn to become a Marveller. Ella is eager to discover her marvel and to find out more about a type of magic so different from what she has grown up with, but integrating into this new school turns out to be harder than she hoped. Fortunately, she makes new friends, Jason and Brigit, who help her better navigate life at the school. After Ella’s family becomes embroiled in controversy due to allegations of their connection to an infamous escaped criminal and her teacher and mentor, Masterji Thakur, goes missing, she needs her friends’ help to help set things right. Clayton does a wonderful job with skillful worldbuilding that is bolstered by vivid, detailed descriptions and smart, witty prose, and readers will be swept up in the magic. The novel celebrates the diverse peoples and customs that make up Ella’s world. Parallels between the world of the Marvellers and real-world history around discrimination, privilege, marginalization, and stereotyping are clear without being heavy-handed. A charming cast and captivating storylines make this a breath of fresh air.

An enthralling fantasy adventure full of bravery, love, and humor. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-17494-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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