A superficial story that's mildly amusing but neither especially plausible nor deeply engaging.

RUBY REINVENTED

Ruby, 12-year-old daughter of a major league pitcher and a popular model-turned–television star who are plagued by paparazzi, discovers her California “friends” want only to gain access to her famous parents.

She decides on a major life change and enrolls in a Maine boarding school, where she immediately, unthinkingly lies upon arrival, claiming to be an orphan. That makes her seem like a soul mate to Connor (who is an orphan), to whom she's attracted—as is vindictive classmate Cassandra. A highly talented designer and seamstress, Ruby wins a campus contest and is chosen to present a fashion show of her work during parents' weekend. Much rings improbable, at best, in this frothy tale, including Ruby's ability to quickly turn out an array of fashion-forward clothing that exactly fits her friends and her loving parents' complete ignorance of her skill. When Ruby pulls out her credit card and charges $300 of magazines at a local newsstand so classmates won't see her photo in them, she risks losing readers’ sympathy. While Ruby's young teen voice rings true, neither the Maine setting nor the other saccharine-sweet characters are infused with much life. Only stock-character Cassandra distinguishes herself, albeit negatively. Awaiting the predictable reveal of Ruby's secret is more irritating then suspenseful.

A superficial story that's mildly amusing but neither especially plausible nor deeply engaging. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3757-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

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. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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