Though Arno’s portrayal of rocky family relationships is perceptive, her treatment of middle school friendship is...

MOLLY IN THE MIDDLE

A middle child feels torn between her friends as well as her family.

Twelve-year-old, white Molly Mahoney feels invisible amid her parents’ fighting and her sisters’ acting out. Only her best friend, Kellan, a white boy who has muscular dystrophy, pays attention to her. But Kellan is home-schooled—has been for years—and Molly’s classmates don’t notice her either. After being overlooked yet again, Molly gives herself a multicolored dye job and tries on a smart-alecky attitude. Her parents are unfazed, but the popular girls—Asian-American Nina and white, affluent Christina—take note. Desperate for an invitation to Christina’s over-the-top Birthday Bash Brunch, Molly avoids Kellan—which becomes harder to do when Kellan returns to school. Worse, Christina’s party and Kellan’s Muscular Dystrophy Walk are on the same day, and she must choose between them. Heavy-handed characterization makes her ultimate choice predictable. Christina, a one-dimensional mean girl, offers little incentive for friendship; her lack of redeeming traits oversimplifies the tough dilemmas of popularity and peer pressure. Readers may also wonder why Molly befriended Kellan. Her narration often frames him as an object of pity; his MD is his most prominent characteristic, and Molly doesn’t seem to care about his few interests. Molly’s relationship with her sisters, strained and strengthened by their parents’ friction, is much more nuanced.

Though Arno’s portrayal of rocky family relationships is perceptive, her treatment of middle school friendship is disappointingly simplistic. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8032-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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