For reluctant readers not drawn to genre fiction, this story may speak to them for a little while.

SNAPSTREAK

HOW MY FRIENDS SAVED MY (SOCIAL) LIFE

Snapchat takes center stage in this Disney-esque drama about middle school girl friendships and a Snapstreak competition.

A local TV station announces a contest for the longest Snapstreak between two students from different schools. The reward is a concert by the popular boy band Boys Being Dudes. Black eighth-grader Vee, who will soon be moving to a new school, courageously asks Gwynneth, its white queen bee, to be her partner in the contest. Vee and Gwynneth are leading the competition when Vee sustains a concussion playing lacrosse and must give up screen time. Vee’s best friends, Megan, a white girl, and Lulu, a Latina, take over her cellphone for her—and things go awry quickly. The frothy story is told from multiple points of view, each girl’s voice flagged with distinctive borders. Unfortunately, all four voices sound similar. The integration of this ubiquitous app into the story mimics real life, with all the distractions and attractions in the world of young teens, and the inaccurate assumptions the girls form via Snapchat make for a strong message. Even though Snapchat legally requires users to be 13, this book for preteens assumes familiarity with its conventions. Luckily, emoji-speak and acronyms are kept to a minimum. The content may already be dated, as the ephemeral Snapchat “story” function has overtaken “chatting.”

For reluctant readers not drawn to genre fiction, this story may speak to them for a little while. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-71346-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart.

I'M OK

When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.

Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school’s talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who’s African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who’s white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, “the lonely widower” of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and “tries too hard.” Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok’s father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa’s African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1929-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist.

WISHED

From the Fairy Tale Reform School series , Vol. 5

With Rumpelstiltskin and his band of villains still on the loose, the students and staff of Fairy Tale Reform School are on high alert as they prepare for the next attack.

Classes are devoted to teaching battle techniques and conjuring new weapons, which narrator Gilly finds preferable to learning history or manners. But Maxine, her ogress friend, has had it with all the doom and gloom. The last straw is when the agenda at the Royal Lady-in-Waiting meeting is changed from “How to Plan the Perfect Fairy Garden Party” to designing flying rocks and creating flower darts. While on a class field trip to the village to investigate their future careers, Maxine finds a magic lamp housing a genie named Darlene. Her wish that everyone be happy works a little too well. War preparations are put on hold as the school fills with flowers, laughter, and plans for a musical production. But when Gilly is tapped to fill in for the local chief of the dwarf police, things really take a turn for the worse. The students, including fairies, ogres, and the part-human/part-beast offspring of Beauty and the ex-Beast, focus on friendship and supporting one another in spite of their differences. Humility, forgiveness, and loyalty are also highly regarded in the FTRS community. Human Gilly is white, but there is racial as well as species diversity at FTRS.

An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5167-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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