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WINK

Not your typical kid-with-cancer book.

A rare form of cancer takes its toll in this novel based on the author’s experience.

Seventh grader Ross Maloy wants nothing more than to be an average middle schooler, hanging out with his best friends, Abby and Isaac, avoiding the school bully, and crushing on the popular girl. There’s just one thing keeping Ross from being completely ordinary: the rare form of eye cancer that’s reduced him to the kid with cancer at school. Ross’ eye is closed in a permanent wink, and he constantly wears a cowboy hat to protect his eyes. The doctors are hopeful that Ross will be cancer free after treatment, but his vision will be impaired, and the treatments cause him to lose his hair and require the application of a particularly goopy ointment. This isn’t a cancer book built upon a foundation of prayer, hope, and life lessons. The driving force here is Ross’ justifiable anger. Ross is angry at the anonymous kids making hurtful memes about him and at Isaac for abandoning him when he needs a friend most. Ross funnels his feelings into learning how to play guitar, hoping to make a splash at the school’s talent show. The author balances this anger element well against the typical middle-grade tropes. Misunderstood bully? Check. Well-meaning parents? Check. While some of these elements will feel familiar, the novel’s emotional climax remains effectively earned. Characters are paper-white in Harrell’s accompanying cartoons.

Not your typical kid-with-cancer book. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1514-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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FAKER

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences.

A con man’s son yearns for a different way of life.

Having helped his single dad fleece wealthy marks since kindergarten, Trey is adept at spotting their rich offspring in each new school he attends and cultivating them until the time comes for a quick getaway. Now that he’s 12, though, the urge to make real friends and put down some roots has become insistent—particularly since he’s drawn to Kaylee, a new classmate in his latest middle school. How can he convince his dad, who’s in the midst of luring local investors into a fantastically lucrative scheme involving a fictive electric car, that it’s time to bag the family profession and settle down? Korman goes more for ironic humor than the physical or stand-up sort in this book, as shown by Trey’s enrollment in an ethics class that forces him into some decidedly hypocritical stances. Much like Trey himself, instant new bestie Logan and his parents turn out to be not at all who they seem. And though there are no bullies or real baddies in the cast on the way to the story’s rosy but implausible resolution, Trey’s malign, high-strung, and wildly reckless huckster of a little sister from hell definitely adds both conflict and suspense to this provocative outing. Main characters read white.

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781338826753

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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