A refreshingly nuanced novel about what it means to chase your dreams.


It’s the summer before high school starts, and Karthik is miserable.

Forced to deliver orders for his parents’ struggling grocery store, pining after Juhi Shah, and harassed by neighborhood bullies, Karthik Raghavan can’t think of a worse way to spend his vacation. But Shanthi, a Boston University graduate student and aspiring playwright with a weakness for the Raghavan family store’s spicy chips, asks him to play the lead role in her play about the early life of Leonard Bernstein. Karthik starts to imagine himself as more than just a rising ninth grader: The more he learns about acting, the more he likes it, and it doesn’t hurt that his stunning memory helps him quickly master his lines. Karthik isn’t sure if he wants to grow up to be an actor, but he is sure that he wants to explore the possibility of doing so, a wish he’s positive his parents won’t support. The more he rehearses, and the faster the summer rolls on, though, the more the people in Karthik’s life surprise him—and the more motivated he feels to find himself. The book’s narratorial voice deftly shifts between sarcasm and pathos, creating a three-dimensional protagonist who values his Indian American family’s identity without being wholly defined by it. The author successfully avoids tired tropes about unsupportive immigrant parents by telling a multigenerational story that, most notably, examines how Karthik’s parents grapple with their own dreaming.

A refreshingly nuanced novel about what it means to chase your dreams. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5522-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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