Too many plotlines, too little nuance.

MAKE SOMETHING OF IT

From the Sharp Sisters series , Vol. 1

In this series opener, Shelby Sharp, the oldest daughter of a Charlotte, North Carolina, mayoral candidate, pursues her fashion-design dream and takes an earnest but simplistic stand against domestic violence.

There are five Sharp sisters, three biological and two adopted, but the others make only sporadic appearances here. The inconsistent attention paid to Shelby’s four younger sisters is typical of the oddly disjointed narrative: The girls are horrified to learn their father will be sending them to public school as a political move, but they acclimate with relatively little trouble. What at first appears to be a story about Shelby’s attempts to stay away from a rival candidate’s dreamy stepson for the good of her father’s campaign abruptly becomes a story about Shelby’s desire to become a fashion designer despite her mother’s wish that she go into law. The narrative voice is similarly clumsy, often providing unnecessary and repetitive explanations (“ ‘It’s not a scarf, Mom. It’s a scart—a scarf-belt,’ I said brazenly, wanting her to use the right name for my design”). Domestic violence is a theme throughout, but it is portrayed with almost cartoonish obviousness. The second and third volumes, Better Than Picture Perfect and Turn Up for Real, publish simultaneously.

Too many plotlines, too little nuance. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-4488-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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