In a market saturated with tales of danger and heroic teens, this one is best left at the Tube station.

READ REVIEW

THIRTEEN

Only one boy has the power to stop a dangerous cult from wreaking havoc in the city of London.

Adam leads the boring life of an average 13-year-old—hanging out with friends, going to school, and attending the occasional music festival. But then his life is turned upside down when members of a cult convinced that he must die before he reaches his 14th birthday begin to stage attacks. He manages to escape their clutches but at the same time puts everyone he cares about in danger. Cults are not yet an overdone topic in literature for teens, and a refreshing plot element is always welcome. However, these characters are too underdeveloped to present any real tension, even as lives hang in the balance. Adam's personality does not stretch beyond the thoughts and actions he needs to defend himself, and too rarely does he question the weirdness of his life, leaving him resistant to readers' sympathy. The bad guys are nearly comical in their attachment to cliché and weak threats: "People are going to get hurt if you don't get into that car right now." The easy language and simple sentences feel more appropriate for an audience younger than 12 than for teen readers.

In a market saturated with tales of danger and heroic teens, this one is best left at the Tube station. (Thriller. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3294-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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A cancer story that struggles to evoke either laughter or tears

THE BEST MEDICINE

This Irish import’s 12-year-old narrator laughs to keep from crying.

Aspiring to become a professional comedian, Philip Wright enjoys entertaining his single mother and biggest fan, Kathy, while daily attempting to capture the attention of his art-class crush, “dark-haired goddess” Lucy Wells. When Kathy bursts into tears and locks herself in the bathroom after one of his jokes, Philip thinks he’s lost his touch. Prodded by her best friend, Kathy finally tells Philip that she has breast cancer that will require surgery, chemo, and radiation. Philip is initially enraged at how much this news will affect his world, never mind the impossibility of saying “breast” to his friends and teachers. When he finally faces the reality that he could lose his mom, Philip starts behaving like she matters. This novel has a rather slow beginning, with humor that feels too calculated to succeed, including an extended lisping riff, making fun of his Spanish best friend’s name (Angel, which Philip shortens to “Ang”), and the occasional reference to poo. The author also fails to explain how this family suffers no economic hardships while its only breadwinner cannot work. Nevertheless, middle-grade readers will identify with Philip’s conflicts with his best friend and his antics to win Lucy’s affections. Ang aside, the primary characters all appear to be Irish; absence of racial cues indicates that the default is white.

A cancer story that struggles to evoke either laughter or tears . (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-880-7

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits.

THE TRAVELING RESTAURANT

JASPER'S VOYAGE IN THREE PARTS

From the Tales of Fontania series , Vol. 1

A seemingly ordinary lad boards a seagoing eatery and is swept up in a series of flights and pursuits that lead him to a higher destiny than he expects (or even wants, particularly).

Having banished all magic (even mention of the word) from the realm of Fontania, evil Lady Gall is on her way to removing the “Provisional” from her title of “Provisional Monarch.” Her attempt to poison Jasper’s beloved little sister Sibilla pitches his secretive extended family into hurried flight. Outraged and confused, Jasper is somehow left behind—but wangles a berth aboard the Traveling Restaurant, a floating diner painted like a circus wagon, and sets out to catch up. Else arranges her narrative into short chapters with titles like “This Is When It Becomes Fraught” and strews it with pirates, wild waters, sudden twists of fortune, family revelations and scrumptious tucker (Jasper finds a snatched chunk of salami “a farmyard of deliciousness in one mouthful”). She sets her quick-witted protagonist on a course that not only sharpens his already-considerable culinary skills but gives him a central role in rescuing his shipwrecked family, decisively scotching Lady Gall’s schemes and restoring magic to the land. Jasper does this with help from a supporting cast stocked with likable enemies, sometimes-unlikable allies and one particularly perspicuous toddler.

A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-8775-7903-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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