Only for those readers who care more about romance and the gimmick than plot and character. (Interactive fiction. 10-12)

READ REVIEW

TARA TAKES THE STAGE

From the Yes No Maybe So series , Vol. 1

Readers guide a middle schooler to various romance possibilities in this gentle series opener that’s similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Tara Singh helps out at her family’s sweet shop, Mmmumbai, where famous Bollywood actress Preeti Chandran chooses to order her wedding cake and sweets. Tara, more interested in Broadway than Bollywood, plans to audition for Dorothy in the school production of The Wizard of Oz and is faced with interesting dilemmas that readers will decide: Should Tara go to the audition or to Preeti Chandran’s wedding? Should she rehearse with Hiro or go to Preeti’s movie with Rohan? The cast is diverse. Tara is of Indian origin (depicted on the cover with dark hair and brown skin), as is childhood friend Rohan (could he be more than annoying-older-brother material?). Best friend Yael Lewis is Jewish (whose bat mitzvah anchors companion title Yael and the Party of the Year). Meanwhile, is Tara’s forever crush and BMOC Hiro Nakahara (with cued Japanese heritage) really interested in Tara? Or will quiet, shy, and clever Desmond Flynn, a white boy with blue eyes and freckles, be the one with whom Tara initiates a brief kiss? The book is heavy on teen tropes, from texting and emojis to eye rolls and air quotes. Characters, however, both primary and secondary, are not well-fleshed-out, parts of the book are repetitive, and the story on the whole is not memorable.

Only for those readers who care more about romance and the gimmick than plot and character. (Interactive fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7568-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.

FISH IN A TREE

Hunt draws a portrait of dyslexia and getting along.

Ally Nickerson, who’s passed through seven schools in seven years, maintains a Sketchbook of Impossible Things. A snowman in a furnace factory is more plausible than imagining herself doing something right—like reading. She doesn't know why, but letters dance and give her headaches. Her acting out to disguise her difficulty causes headaches for her teachers, who, oddly, never consider dyslexia, even though each notices signs like inconsistent spellings of the same word. Ally's confusion is poignant when misunderstandings like an unintentional sympathy card for a pregnant teacher make her good intentions backfire, and readers will sympathize as she copes with the class "mean girls." When a creative new teacher, Mr. Daniels, steps in, the plot turns more uplifting but also metaphor-heavy; a coin with a valuable flaw, cupcakes with hidden letters, mystery boxes and references to the Island of Misfit Toys somewhat belabor the messages that things aren't always what they seem and everyone is smart in their own ways. Despite emphasis on "thinking outside the box," characters are occasionally stereotypical—a snob, a brainiac, an unorthodox teacher—but Ally's new friendships are satisfying, as are the recognition of her dyslexia and her renewed determination to read.

Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16259-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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