Dark, funny and pawzzz-i-tively brilliant.

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THE KEY THAT SWALLOWED JOEY PIGZA

From the Joey Pigza series , Vol. 5

Joey takes on his toughest set of challenges yet in this heart-rending, triumphant series finale.

Challenge one: His manic depressive mom has hidden his meds. Challenge two: She’s abruptly checked herself into the hospital, leaving him in charge of a cluttered, roach-infested house and his baby brother, Carter Junior. Challenge three: His no-account dad (still with a Frankenstein face from the previous episode’s botched plastic surgery) is lurking about the neighborhood looking for a chance to snatch Carter Junior and run. Moreover, Joey’s brave efforts to stay “pawzzz-i-tive,” to be “the mature Joey, the think-before-you-speak Joey, the better-than-Dad Joey, the hold-the-fort-for-Mom Joey, the keep-the-baby-safe Joey” are both aided and complicated by the return of Olivia—as he puts it, “the meanest cute blind girl I have ever loved.” Tucking enough real and metaphorical keys into Joey’s adrenalized narrative to create a motif, Gantos also trots out other significant figures from his protagonist’s past on the way to a fragile, hard-won but nonetheless real reunion. The conclusion invites readers to stop by: “There is always an extra slice waiting for you at the House-of-Pigza”—with delectable toppings aplenty.

Dark, funny and pawzzz-i-tively brilliant. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-30083-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A thought-provoking title for sophisticated readers.

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. (AS TOLD TO HIS BROTHER)

A missing boy returns from another world. Will anyone believe his story?

When 12-year-old Aidan goes missing, his family and community members search everywhere in their small town. Things progress from worrying to terrifying when Aidan doesn’t turn up. No note. No trace. Not even a body. Six days later, Aidan’s younger brother, Lucas, finds Aidan alive in the attic they’d searched many times before. Aidan claims he was in a magical world called Aveinieu and that he got there through a dresser. While everyone around the brothers searches for answers, Lucas gets Aidan to open up about Aveinieu. Lucas, who narrates the story, grapples with the impossibility of the situation as he pieces it all together. Is any part of Aidan’s story true? YA veteran Levithan’s first foray into middle grade is a poignant tale of brotherly love and family trauma. The introspective writing, funneled through a precocious narrator, is as much about what truth means as about what happened. Though an engaging read for the way it makes readers consider and reconsider the mystery, the slow burn may deter those craving tidy resolutions. Bookish readers, however, will delight in the homages to well-known books, including When You Reach Me and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cast defaults to White; the matter-of-fact inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters is noteworthy.

A thought-provoking title for sophisticated readers. (Mystery/fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984848-59-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has some standards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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