An intriguing glimpse of the future that never reaches its full potential.

Averee’s world implodes when her social media rank mysteriously drops.

In the near future, the social media app Ranked has been incorporated into every aspect of society, determining where you can live, park, eat out, and work—and your social status at school. Averee and Zoe are best friends despite their polar opposite views on Ranked: low-ranked Zoe hates how mindlessly people buy into its judgmental elements while midranked Averee avoids conflict with the popular crowd and tries to minimize stress on her hardworking single mother by not rocking the boat. When Averee’s and her mother’s ranks inexplicably drop, their lives are thrown into chaos. The girls plan to fix this by hunting down PrettyKitty, the enigmatic creator of Ranked. Instead of a simple solution, the friends discover dark secrets behind the popular social media platform. The integration of social media into society and its consequent discrimination and bullying are well depicted in detailed, full-color illustrations. Averee is a sympathetic but meek protagonist, in contrast to strongly opinionated, impulsive Zoe. Dramatic scenes, panel flow, and backgrounds are energetic and vibrant, fitting the story’s tone. Unfortunately, the plot feels rushed, and the resolution of what could have been a gripping high-tech mystery lacks complexity and falls flat. Averee is cued as East or Southeast Asian while Zoe seems intended to be biracial (Asian/White); there is diversity in the supporting cast.

An intriguing glimpse of the future that never reaches its full potential. (Graphic science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949518-12-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: A Wave Blue World

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021


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

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. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018


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

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: May 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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