Uplifting without sentimentality, timely not trendy, and utterly engaging.

THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE

Bea, 12, reflects on life since her parents’ divorce when she was 8.

Bea, who is white, tells her story in a direct, conversational tone, with age-appropriate insights. Mostly she describes interactions with family members near and far, including her parents and her father’s partner, the aunt, uncle, and cousins with whom she and her parents spend an annual two-week summer vacation, and the new sister by marriage whose visit she eagerly anticipates. Glimpses of her school experiences focus on frustrations or antagonisms, like her struggle with spelling or the times that she allows her anger to spill out and cause (minor) injury to others. Stead packs in plenty of issues—divorce, therapy, a gay parent, homophobia, and a painful case of eczema—but her prose never descends to moralizing or moaning. Instead, Bea’s authentic, accessible voice and smooth interweaving of anecdotes keep the tone relatively light and make for a sometimes-amusing, sometimes-poignant exploration of realistic contemporary experiences and concerns. The acknowledgements that not every problem can be solved and that doing a bad thing does not necessarily make someone a bad person will reassure readers that they too can find balance and comfort in complicated circumstances. Supported by multidimensional, sympathetic family and friends, Bea ultimately finds that her list of certainties provides the necessary foundation for personal growth—and change.

Uplifting without sentimentality, timely not trendy, and utterly engaging. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-101-93809-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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