Authentic gamer action meets classic sci-fi themes and leaves room for sequels.



Twelve-year-old gamers at an elite tournament uncover secrets.

In the not-so-distant future, the digital world’s just as real as the physical one thanks to virtual-reality technology. Rogan, an egotistical-yet-talented “Laser Viper” player, spends more time alone in his virtual apartment (where he’s facing eviction for failing to pay rent) than with his parents, who are wrapped up in their own digital lives. When the creator of “Laser Viper” invites him and four other players to a contest to become the “Laser Viper” Grand Champion, he leaves Seattle for the Atomic Frontiers headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he and the other players are sequestered. Joining him are his chief gaming rival, Shaylyn; brusque bully Beckett; brilliant Jacqueline; and team-player Takashi. The advanced version of the game is more real than ever—but when certain things don’t add up, the players find themselves in danger from an unexpected source. Aside from brown-skinned Jacqueline and implied-Japanese Takashi, the only other main character explicitly of color is Xavier (called X), a brown-skinned, “tough-looking” Atomic Frontiers employee; Rogan, Shaylyn, and Beckett are default white. (Many principal characters are neurodiverse, but their conditions are controlled by the neuroports that also facilitate their play.) During the intricate gaming missions, the perspective hops among the characters (each playing a different class, “Team Fortress”–style), so readers don’t miss anything, from the three elimination rounds to the championship, in this fast-paced narrative tailor-made for gamers.

Authentic gamer action meets classic sci-fi themes and leaves room for sequels. (Science fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-04529-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

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 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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