A sharp story with not one false note, rendered with eerie tones and a revealing commentary on money, power and loyalty.

Compass

A 14-year-old girl’s supernatural talent sparks winds of change in this dystopian YA novel.

For as long as she can remember, Cassandra has always known where north is. She lives in Sector 17 with her uncle and parents, all of whom are Agricoles who work at Blissful Woods, a deep forest theme park where they “depict” the seasons for the visiting Technostians. In a world carefully controlled by the Daisy Consortium, Cassandra and the other Agricoles attend school only until age 10, work in the Blissful Woods, and are forbidden to speak of the past—especially the books, the old world and the attempted uprising that took place when Cassandra was 4. Uncle Solon takes a special interest in Cassandra, though, and breaks these rules to teach her to write. Despite this, when the Agricole children are tested for a special Consortium school, it’s her best friend Rachel, not Cassandra, who’s chosen. Cassandra could be content to work with her family, preparing for the sugaring “Depiction” of the snowy maple trees, but a visit to the weather station reveals that Cassandra’s internal compass can also control the wind. Shortly after, Cassandra is visited by men on horseback who want to see her compass in action for themselves. When Cassandra shares the interaction with her family, Uncle Soron explains that the horsemen are the Liber Voy, the mix of Agricole and Technostian rebels behind the uprising years ago. They come forward to explain how Cassandra’s gift could help them win the rebellion, though not before the Consortium intervenes. Cassandra’s parents abruptly flee Blissful Woods, leaving a note for Cassandra to meet them at the Colony, the main Consortium sector. Something is amiss in the request, but Cassandra goes with a band of young Agricole girls auditioning for a Moulin Rouge Depiction at the Colony. Once there, though, the girls are led not to an audition but to prostitution. Cassandra’s anger unleashes the wind, and she soon finds Rachel in the Colony. No one appears to be who they say they are, and Cassandra must choose between the greed and power that tempt her or the Liber Voy who say she could save them all. Engrossing from the start, the plot moves at a good clip, though dialogue, which can often sound rote and redundant, rules most of the story. Thankfully, that changes when Cassandra embraces her power and finds her voice. The narration lacks the detailed beauty of dystopian novels like The Giver (1993), but the story is nonetheless clear and heartfelt. Readers may wish for a deeper portrait of Cassandra, especially since compassionate, humorous Uncle Solon is so well-developed. Meanwhile, Cassandra seems to be what the people around her want her to be; fierce Katniss Everdeen she is not.

A sharp story with not one false note, rendered with eerie tones and a revealing commentary on money, power and loyalty.

Pub Date: April 15, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 173

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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