An engaging pair of tales that communicate a thoughtful message with a light touch.

ALWAYS UPBEAT / ALL THAT

From the Lockwood Lions series

Husband-and-wife team Stephanie Perry Moore (Get What You Give, 2010) and Derrick Moore (It's Possible!, 2008) deliver a pair of intersecting but distinct stories from the points of view of a cheerleader and a quarterback at a predominantly African-American Atlanta high school.

Spoiled, confident Charli Black and driven athlete Blake Strong have been together for two years. Now, at the start of their junior year, they are growing apart. Blake wants to “take [their] relationship to the next level,” but Charli wants to wait. Charli has become co-captain of the cheerleading squad and is frustrated that Blake expects her always to be available. Or, from Blake's point of view, Blake has important family news (his mother has cancer), and his girl won't make time to talk to him. Giving readers access to both parties' perspectives helps them see where both Blake and Charli go wrong, as well as where each has valid needs and complaints. At the same time, each story is complete within itself, and the two complement rather than repeat each other. A cast of recognizable supporting characters—including sweet Ella and “salty” Eva for Charli and troubled Leo and wannabe gangster Landon for Blake—enlivens each narrator's story.

An engaging pair of tales that communicate a thoughtful message with a light touch. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61651-884-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Saddleback Educational Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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