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THE ASCENDER

An inventive, funny, and multilayered adventure.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A middle school boy must solve the puzzle of why reality keeps getting rewritten in this novel.

The wave, as 12-year-old Billy Magnusson terms it, periodically hits him with a dizzying force, causing quaking that rattles “his bones” and a “jarring buzz in his ears.” Afterward, he finds that the world has changed in ways that only Billy remembers. Also dislocating are his family’s frequent moves; Billy’s father, a visionary inventor, works for the military. At his new school, Billy joins the Ascension Club, which is organized around a fascinating role-playing game. To Billy’s surprise, the club’s quirky members also remember changes after the wave, which they call the Mandela Effect since—it turns out—thousands of people remember a different outcome to the African statesman’s story. The surprises keep coming, as the wave brings Billy a brand new 8-year-old brother who’s being studied by a sinister government doctor. Further, it seems that a secret agency has been meddling with the Mandela Effect and, in the process, has erased a genius scientist from history. Now, with the help of his father, a game designer, a quantum computer, and a teleporter, Billy must set things right. Pacelli skillfully sets these remarkable events alongside the sometimes-melodramatic emotions and rivalries of middle school. While the science is complex and challenging, the story doesn’t forget its characters. These are well portrayed; for example, the Ascension Club members don’t fit into standard slots like nerd or jock, and adults aren’t clueless, as is often stereotypical in middle school novels. It’s somewhat problematic, though, that Billy’s avid interest in a pretty classmate often seems too advanced for a boy of 12: “She’d ruin his life if he let her.” That aside, the tale offers a fast-paced plot that’s absolutely bursting with ideas and will keep amazing readers.

An inventive, funny, and multilayered adventure.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Gypsy Shadow Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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