Emotional depth and nuanced representation level up this action-packed, futuristic page-turner.

LAST GAMER STANDING

A hardworking prodigy takes the gaming world by storm, one epic battle at a time.

Mysterious new gamer TheRuiNar is turning heads in the 2067 Junior Dayhold Tournament. Looking at TheRuiNar’s teenage male avatar, no one would ever guess that the person behind this virtual reality star is Reyna Cheng, a 12-year-old who got a scholarship to attend the prestigious Dayhold Academy’s summer camp. Winning the tournament can rocket young players to e-sports stardom, but for Reyna the stakes are even higher. If she’s eliminated, she’s promised her struggling immigrant parents that she’ll give up her dreams of gaming forever. Winning the prize money would not only prove she has what it takes to be a pro gamer, it would also pay for her mother’s cancer treatments. Does Reyna have the physical, mental, and emotional endurance to keep her identity a secret and become the next champion? Gripping game play as well as cliffhanger chapter endings make for an adrenaline-filled reading experience. Reyna is an ambitious, emotionally vulnerable narrator who games to escape the hardships of the real world while also acknowledging and fighting back against race and gender discrimination in the White, male-dominated tech world. Reyna’s Chinese American cultural heritage is rich and nuanced, from her complicated, realistic relationship with her parents to her K-Pop–blasting pre-gaming ritual. Reyna’s friends are racially diverse.

Emotional depth and nuanced representation level up this action-packed, futuristic page-turner. (Science fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-74150-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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