Thought-provoking and smart and a great springboard for discussions on race and class.



From the President series

Brianna Justice wants nothing more than to be a star reporter.

The president of her sixth-grade class at Blueberry Hills Middle School, this young, African-American student always gets what she goes after—most of the time. Her overzealousness to be mentored by her favorite TV news reporter backfires and lands her instead with a newspaper journalist. As her first assignment, he has her cover a SheCodes program at Price Academy. Brianna frets over this seemingly lackluster assignment because the school is located in what she believes to be a “shady neighborhood” on Detroit’s east side. From the first, Brianna wrestles with self-consciousness over her financial privilege and with her own stereotypes about the African-American students at Price. She comes to realize that using the word “ghetto” to describe the kids she meets there is not only derogatory, but it also deflects attention from the real issues of poverty and lack of opportunity within that community. This perceptive tale about how a young girl grapples with the diversity of conditions within her own racial demographic trusts its readers with weighty material. Winston does an excellent job highlighting the complex race issues that African-American children face. Though her father and grandfather tell her not to use the word “ghetto,” it is her white mentor who schools Brianna on the history of the word, and this is when the use of the word finally sinks in for her.

Thought-provoking and smart and a great springboard for discussions on race and class. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-50528-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

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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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Lovers of bloody fantasy epics will be glad to have another.


From the Fireborn series , Vol. 1

An unnamed warrior-child in training needs to defeat the inner demons that enrage her.

Twelve is an acolyte of the Hunters, a group of warriors who sever all prior ties, give up their names, and fight the darkness. Despite her prowess in battle, she’s friendless, prone to lashing out, and desperate to avoid thinking about her painful past. Her solitude ends when the Hunting Lodge is attacked by goblins—and worse. The only girl Twelve even remotely likes, the worst warrior of them all, is kidnapped, and Twelve hurls herself into the monstrous outer world to save her friend. But it seems she won’t be going alone. She’s joined by Dog, a massive stone beast, the irritable (and sometimes funny) fighter who guards the lodge. And soon they’re also joined by Five and Six, the two most hateful boys among the huntlings. At least Twelve can lean on her squirrel friend, Widge, a gift from kidnapped Seven. The northern wilds are a frozen wasteland filled with terrifying monsters, and if the young warriors are to survive they’ll have to learn to trust each other (and themselves). A few threads are left dangling for the next entry in the series. Late-discovered magic provides a deus ex machina in a quest that’s otherwise about inner knowledge and cooperation. All the human characters appear to be White.

Lovers of bloody fantasy epics will be glad to have another. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299671-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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