Even Sleator’s confirmed fans will wince at this severely off-key outing.


Not even hammer-and-tongs plotting pounds this jumbled mess of random McGuffins into a coherent whole.

A therapeutic “mirror box” that reflects urgent gestures from ghostly hands sucks Isaac into a series of revealing visions and flashbacks through restroom mirrors. Through these glimpses, Isaac comes to realize that the reason his hospitalized piano-teacher mother has been marked to have her arm amputated is because she’s in the care of a nurse who is a serial killer with a particular thing for pianists. Can he whisk her out of the conveniently unstaffed ICU? Yes, with help from two school bullies who suddenly turn into allies, a grandfather with Alzheimer’s who suddenly regains his mind and a vertigo-inducing optical illusion that distracts the killer when she comes after him with a bone saw. Repeated anxious ward visits, multiple red herrings and not one but two scenes in which Isaac is forcibly sedated and then subjected to medical torture (a brutal endoscopy and an MRI) add to the page count but not the weak suspense.

Even Sleator’s confirmed fans will wince at this severely off-key outing. (Suspense. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8428-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Despite an engaging start and intriguing finish, Book 2 suffers from an overloaded middle that lessens the punch of its...



From the Young Inventors Guild series , Vol. 2

In the middle volume of a planned trilogy, Bowditch’s Young Inventors Guild travels to an ancient Italian village, unearthing more questions than even an international team of geniuses can answer.

It’s 1903, and for a moment, Jasper, Lucy, Faye, Wallace and Noah (five brilliant children) have everything: longed-for parents who’ve magically returned to them, well-stocked labs, and their faithful teacher, Miss Brett. But the children are devastated when, whisked away by their darkly clad guardians, they see all they love explode. The story starts fast, generating many questions: Why is villain Komar Romak still after them? Why do their diaries vanish? And are the men in strange black garb friends or foes? Despite that quick start and some engaging ideas (explosive mirages, a meeting with Nikola Tesla, an escape in a ship-turned-submarine), the book slows when the travelers reach Solemano. There, the plot bogs down amid myriad details, including descriptions of a snowball fight and baked delicacies, childish squabbles, and unresolved emotional dramas (where have the children’s parents got to?). Like its guild members, this story seems to lack a clearly defined mission; there’s just too much for readers (especially those new to the series) to keep track of. The pace quickens in a suspenseful end that answers many questions but leaves others unresolved for the conclusion.

Despite an engaging start and intriguing finish, Book 2 suffers from an overloaded middle that lessens the punch of its plotline. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61088-104-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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