Didactic passages aside, this fast-paced mystery should appeal to Webb fans and those seeking an intrigue-filled escape to...

BARRACUDA

From the Seven Prequels series

With deathbed secrets and attempted murder on the itinerary, spring break in the Florida Keys proves anything but relaxing for a teen and his grandfather.

Four years after Devil’s Pass (2016), Brouwer presents this mystery prequel starring protagonist Jim Webb, now four years younger and happily anticipating a Florida vacation with his grandfather. The 13-year-old white boy soon learns, however, that his grandfather’s plans include not only a little fishing, but a mission of mercy for Jonathan Greene, a former comrade from his World War II days. On his deathbed, Greene confesses that he wants to atone for the “horrible thing” he did following the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that devastated the Keys and helped make him rich, and he seeks Webb and his grandfather’s help to “make a difference” by ensuring that his fortune gets left to charity. As Webb aids the dying man and gets closer to learning Greene’s terrible secret, his own life becomes endangered, and Webb must repeatedly act quickly to outwit his pursuers. While Brouwer’s action-packed whodunit includes high jinks, a whiff of teen romance, and some thrilling chases, the exchanges between Webb and his grandfather can prove plodding, didactic, and, at times, awkwardly crafted due to the uncomfortable emotional distance between the two.

Didactic passages aside, this fast-paced mystery should appeal to Webb fans and those seeking an intrigue-filled escape to the Keys. (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1152-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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