SPACE STATION SEVENTH GRADE

Funny, close-to-the-source episodes from Jason's first year in junior high school, where his word for classroom is no longer hot, boring, or interesting, but safe—safe from the ninth graders who run the school and will pee on your sneaker if you're in their way at the urinal. Jason and his friend Richie have some ridiculous racial misconceptions; after gym showers, they conclude that blacks and Italians get pubic hair earlier than "we" (WASPs) do—and that classmate McGinnis, then, must be from northern Italy. Jason also has a macho attitude toward girls, and early on he becomes class hero for a night by chasing a "monster" in the woods—mostly to protect and impress the fluffy cheerleader he pines over through the book. But the girl he ends up relating to is Marceline McAllister, the skinny trombone player he insults with a moose call early on, then battles fiercely for second-to-last place among the track team's mile runners. When the moose call gets him suspended, Jason's stepfather takes the matter lightly, explaining to his mother that they will have a "new monster" to deal with as "the thirteen-year-old does not change from a worm to a butterfly. It changes from a butterfly to a worm." If so, though, Jason is a worm who turns, imperceptibly—learning from experiences with his Korean-American friend (Jason emphasizes the Korean origin, Peter the American present), an encounter in a black neighborhood, the death of Pete's little brother, and, especially, the staunch example of Marceline McAllister. This is not, then, as frivolous as it seems at first; but it is consistently zippy and bright—and all the better for not waving its colors prematurely.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1982

ISBN: 0316806056

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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