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NOMAD

Alexander is clearly passionate about science, space exploration, and social justice, but he never allows that passion to...

Gabriel Sandro Fuentes, 11-year-old ambassador of Earth, fends off an alien invasion.

The superb conclusion to this two-part tale of space diplomacy restarts Gabriel's tale at the very moment Ambassador (2014) concluded: when he meets the shockingly human child ambassador of the nomadic, spacefaring Kaen. The Kaen are still out for Gabe's blood, Earth is threatened by the species-destroying Outlast, and (no less world-shaking) Gabriel's father's been deported from the United States to Mexico. Gabriel convinces the Kaen ambassador that he's her best ally against the Outlast, so he joins her on Kaen territory. The Kaen's jaguar-shaped shuttlecraft, Olmec-style spacesuits, and terrible tamales perturb Gabriel, though his fear that aliens may have been responsible for Mayan civilization prove unfounded. In the fascinatingly familiar craft, Gabriel and Kaen join with Ambassador Nadia, the previous child ambassador of Earth, who flew into a time dilation when she tried to fight the Outlast—in 1974. Soviet Nadia and modern American Gabe get on swimmingly, despite the culture clash; after all, they're both diplomats. Nadia has a vision disability, which Alexander handles with welcome nuance. Though Gabriel's not all that believable as an 11-year-old, he's thoroughly credible as an empathetic hero. With Nadia and Kaen, he relies on one hope to stop the Outlast: "Communication is possible. Communication is always possible." Maybe that's true on Earth, as well.

Alexander is clearly passionate about science, space exploration, and social justice, but he never allows that passion to shortchange the crackerjack adventure . (Science fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9767-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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