A bit underdone in spots but a mostly delectable debut.

READ REVIEW

DEX

A middle schooler discovers that he was born to be a celebrity chef.

Trained in the kitchen from birth by his sorely missed grandpa Poppy, 12-year-old “Dex the Food Dude” Rossi already runs a successful business selling sandwiches and cookies to commuters out of a wheelbarrow in his front yard. But a spell at the stir-fry station at hot classmate Sarah’s bat mitzvah propels the white boy to wider fame and glory as the star of Dine with Dex on the Eatz Network. This meteoric rise ominously earns him the animosity of smarmy rival TV chef Preston LeTray. Distracted by a mad crush on Sarah and also the horrifying news that his grandma Golda is on the verge of losing Poppy’s Kitchen, the family diner, Dex is unaware of his danger even after LeTray’s volunteered “help” on a show leads to on-air volcanoes of vomit. Fortunately, Dex has plenty of more perspicacious allies. Some of these come across as, at best, overboiled, notably Sarah, child of a Chinese Jew; Liza, a biracial (black/white) classmate with white gay dads who run a salon; and “white kid” Jordy, who sports cornrows and speaks in an appalling version of “ghetto” (“Leave da sucka alone. Bad ’nuff he all love-thumped wit a who-dat”). Not so, though, are the references to cookies, cakes, sweet and savory sauces, sumptuous platters, gourmet pizzas, and other mouthwatering fare that Fishbach energetically stirs into her fast and funny tale.

A bit underdone in spots but a mostly delectable debut. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943978-04-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Persnickety Press

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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