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AMBASSADOR

Physics lovers will enjoy this clever series opener—but so will those who enjoy comedy, politics, diplomacy or...

An interstellar embassy, alien assassins, galactic mass extinctions: These are Gabe’s small problems.

Gabriel Fuentes is looking at a summer of nothing but babysitting his toddler siblings at home in Minneapolis, so he’s pleasantly surprised when an animate purple blob arrives in his bedroom, asking him to be the ambassador for Earth. The Envoy looks like a giant purple eyeball, eats baking soda and grows a pseudopod mouth whenever it needs to speak, but its mission is a serious one: Earth is without any representation in the galaxy, and 11-year-old peacemaker Gabe is perfect for the job. The Envoy quantum-entangles all of Gabe’s particles to enable virtual communication with the other ambassadors (in a process peppered with snarky, science-inflected humor from Gabe). But no sooner has Gabe begun his ambassadorial duties than real life intrudes in all its ugliness. While Gabe is American-born, the same is not true for his archaeologist mother or chef father—and their immigration paperwork is not in order. The turn to the devastatingly serious, handled with grace and empathy, may hit some readers like a sucker punch after the humorous opening, despite its foreshadowing. Even though his family has troubles, Gabe can’t ignore his extraterrestrial obligations, if only because somebody from space is trying to kill him. It will take all of Gabe’s diplomatic skills to find the assassin, save himself and deliver a perfect setup for Book 2.

Physics lovers will enjoy this clever series opener—but so will those who enjoy comedy, politics, diplomacy or strange-looking aliens . (Science fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9764-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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THE FORT

A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes.

A gaggle of eighth graders find the coolest clubhouse ever.

Fulfilling the fantasies of anyone who’s ever constructed a fort in their bedroom or elsewhere, Korman hands his five middle schoolers a fully stocked bomb shelter constructed decades ago in the local woods by an eccentric tycoon and lost until a hurricane exposes the entrance. So, how to keep the hideout secret from interfering grown-ups—and, more particularly, from scary teen psychopath Jaeger Devlin? The challenge is tougher still when everyone in the central cast is saddled with something: C.J. struggles to hide injuries inflicted by the unstable stepdad his likewise abused mother persists in enabling; Jason is both caught in the middle of a vicious divorce and unable to stand up to his controlling girlfriend; Evan is not only abandoned by drug-abusing parents, but sees his big brother going to the bad thanks to Jaeger’s influence; Mitchell struggles with OCD–fueled anxieties and superstitions; and so forth. How to keep a story overtaxed with issues and conflicts from turning into a dreary slog? Spoiler alert: Neither the author nor his characters ultimately prove equal to the challenge. With the possible exception of Ricky Molina, one of the multiple narrators, everyone seems to be White.

A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-62914-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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