Kenzie describes a fantasy middle school life the way most girls wish it could be—amusing and fun but not quite plausible.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

It’s just a tiny bit hard to feel sorry for Kenzie.

Ever since her mother died three years before, she’s been home-schooled, constantly traveling first-class with her busy dad. Now she gets to spend six weeks in one place, enrolled in a Las Vegas middle school. She throws herself into the experience, easily making friends, joining a club, running for student council vice president, and even ousting class diva Shelby for the lead role in the musical. She just doesn’t bother to tell anyone, even Ashia and Bren, who are especially kind, that she’s only there temporarily. After word finally gets out, many are annoyed at her failure to come clean, although Bren, an attractively developed, rather quirky boy, sticks solidly by her. Even though Kenzie struggles a bit after her secret is revealed, a neat fix effectively derails that conflict. Her father announces that they can remain permanently if she wishes, a decision she mulls over—while visiting Walt Disney World. Rather than feeling believable as plucky and a bit precocious, Kenzie seems to ride a magic carpet that elevates her above the true strife of middle school. With none of the protagonists physically described or much in the way of other ethnic or racial markers in Kenzie’s present-tense, first-person monologue, this Las Vegas school could just as well be anywhere.

Kenzie describes a fantasy middle school life the way most girls wish it could be—amusing and fun but not quite plausible. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9109-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more