Second swing and a hard miss.

KID ALONE

From the Garvie Smith series , Vol. 2

Garvie Smith, the underachieving teen detective, returns in a new mystery with more murder, dangerous intrigue, and highly inconvenient exams.

Fans of Running Girl (2016) will find the mixed-race amateur sleuth and company much the same in this direct sequel, in which Pyotor Gimpel, a Polish boy with Asperger’s who also attends Garvie’s school, is found shot to death in a storage facility. True to form, Garvie abandons his already-small inclination to complete his exams, jeopardizing his future prospects, in order to solve this far more interesting whodunit puzzle, even as the recently demoted Sikh D.I. Singh tries in vain to keep Garvie out of it. Where Mason has added some depth to several aspects of Garvie’s world, including a closer look at his relationship with his Barbadian mother (his white father has abandoned the family), much of this sequel has disappointingly managed to outpace the problems of the first installment. The inclusion of a neurodivergent character as a murder victim, whose homicide is only solvable due to the particular behavioral manifestations of his autism-spectrum disorder, smacks of lip-service representation and lazy craft reliant on stereotype shorthand. Confusing elements such as the misrepresentation of Polish ethno-nationality as a racial identity also muddy the waters, and the juxtaposed-but-unexplored relationships of several different (Polish, Pakistani, Bajan) immigrant-family dynamics feel like a missed opportunity in a narrative where diverse cultural tensions are so largely at play.

Second swing and a hard miss. (Mystery. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03649-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: David Fickling/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters.

RETRO

A no-technology challenge in a small Northern California town turns sinister.

After Samantha shoplifts but lets her friend Luna take the fall for her crime, Luna is rightfully enraged—and not least because her mother, a Spanish immigrant, is at risk of losing her visa to remain in the U.S., making any sort of criminal activity especially harmful. Luna uploads a video of a drunk Samantha bad-mouthing her friends and other classmates to Limbo, the social media app everyone’s obsessed with. Even though she has regrets and deletes it shortly after, she isn’t fast enough, and the video goes viral. The harsh response results in Samantha’s attempting to take her own life. The fact that she survives alleviates some of Luna’s guilt, but she still sends a private message to the app developers, explaining her role in what happened and asking for their help as she seeks accountability. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Limbo CEO comes to their school and proposes a challenge: Any student who manages to go the entire school year without using technology, including their phones, will receive a full-ride scholarship to college. As the year progresses, however, some of Luna’s friends disappear and the real nature of #RetroChallenge becomes clear. Though the fast pace will appeal to reluctant readers, it comes at the expense of character development and relationship-building, making it hard to feel attached to any of them. The stilted dialogue poses another obstacle.

A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66590-275-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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