TOM BITES BACK

From the Middle School Bites series , Vol. 2

Life goes on as usual—even when it’s anything but.

On the day before the start of middle school, Tom Marks was bitten by a vampire bat, a werewolf, and a zombie and had to adjust to a drastically altered reality: that of a Vam-Wolf-Zom, as related in series opener Middle School Bites (2020). But within the week, Tom must return to life as usual. The world of a middle schooler is rich and mercilessly tumultuous, rife with burgeoning crushes, Halloween protests, school-bus bullies, failed band practices, dances, and sibling rivalries—and, of course, mad scientists, moonlit transformations, and mysterious, centuries-old vampire girls guarding the secrets to your survival. With friends old, unexpected, and new by his side, Tom gears up to tackle challenges both banal and bizarre as they come flying (sometimes quite literally) at him. This sequel takes a more slice-of-life approach than its action-packed predecessor. The slower pace and almost episodic nature take some getting used to, especially in the first third, where exposition must balance the introduction of new characters and plot elements. Once the story hits its stride, however, it becomes not only enjoyable, but engrossing, adroitly juggling a larger cast and deeper dives into side characters’ psyches. The witty frankness of Tom’s narration consistently amuses, keeping readers firmly on his side as he grows as a person and in his powers.

Bloody good. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4615-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more