THE WORLD ENDS IN APRIL

It’s so annoying that Elle’s survivalist grandfather makes her do all these prepper drills—until she learns about the asteroid headed for Earth.

Elle’s widowed father loves his dad but can’t stand the way Grandpa Joe pulls Elle and her kid brothers into all his survivalist planning. Elle barely tolerates the surprise drills, the inspections of her bug-out bag, the insistence that she eat disgusting MREs. But one day, she comes upon a scary website in which a Harvard astrophysicist explains that an asteroid is going to hit the planet in the spring. Maybe all of Grandpa Joe’s training will come in handy after all! She enlists the help of her best (and only) friend, but Mack is the opposite of loner Elle, and he brings other students into their survival planning. With Mack, Elle finds herself leading the Hamilton Middle School Nature Club, teaching a few of her fellow students about water filters and heirloom seeds. But while Elle wants Mack laser-focused on the apocalypse and on her, he’s distracted by the swim team—and worse, by his possible transfer to the Conrad School for the Blind. Mack is both kind and adventurous, but it’s unfortunate the didactic descriptions of his assistive tools lack accuracy in this context. Elle and her family are white, Mack’s black, and their classmates are racially diverse. Watching these kids spiral into paranoia, fueled by a fraudulent internet tale of conspiracies, makes for compelling reading.

A page-turner. (author’s note, bibliography) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6761-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A terrific premise buried beneath problem-novel tropes.

THE FORT

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 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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