Perhaps once the series is complete, this will be something to recommend.


From the Merits of Mischief series , Vol. 1

Mischief has its rewards, especially at Kilter Academy.

Twelve-year-old Seamus Hinkle was a good student, a good kid, with a spotless record. Then during a brawl in the cafeteria, he wings an apple at a substitute teacher, hoping to startle her out of intervening and thus save her from near-certain injury—and kills her. He's sent to Kilter Academy for Troubled Youth. After his parents drop him off, Seamus finds things at Kilter aren't what they seem. It's a school to train professional Troublemakers. Pulling one over on the young faculty earns demerits, which equal credits at the Kommissary. Ratting on fellow students earns gold stars, which correspondingly reduce credit at the Kommissary. Weighed down with guilt, Seamus vows to be good, but he keeps inadvertently scaring or making a fool of his teachers and earning demerits. Why does the school’s enigmatic director have such confidence in Seamus? Will he ever feel comfortable letting his new friends know why he’s at Kilter? Burns’ (who’s also Tricia Rayburn, Siren, 2010) series starter has an interesting premise and some enjoyable moments. However, there are far too many loose ends at volume's close for this to be a satisfying read in itself. While Seamus’s turmoil is believable, he and the rest of the cast are a bit underdeveloped. The lack of solutions to the several mysteries make this more of a turn-off than a page-turner.

Perhaps once the series is complete, this will be something to recommend. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4029-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...


Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.


An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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