Tag Archives: humor

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy. July 18, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 336 p. ISBN: 9781619639126.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

Action-packed and wildly funny, this near-future sci-fi features three teens on an inter-dimensional mission to save the world.

Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA’s mysterious Multi-World Agency. After rounds of crazy-competitive testing they are appointed to Team 3, along with an alternate, just in case Eddie screws up (as everyone expects he will). What they don’t expect is that aliens will arrive from another dimension, and look just like us. And no one could even imagine that Team 3 would be the only hope of saving our world from their Earth-destroying plans. The teens steal the spacecraft (it would be great if they knew how to fly it) and head to Earth2, where the aliens’ world and people are just like ours. With a few notable exceptions.

There, the teens will find more than their alternate selves: they’ll face existential questions and high-stakes adventure, with comedy that’s out of this world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Body humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 8-11. Following a battery of bizarre tests to evaluate a broad range of abilities, Rosa Hayashi and Eddie Toivonen are picked to train in NASA’s top secret Interworlds Agency (IA) program, which grooms teens to become ambassadors to alien worlds. Rosa comes from an impressive scientific pedigree, while Eddie sees IA as a means of escape from his highly dysfunctional family. As Rosa and Eddie endure the rigorous program, they face competition and infighting with other trainees, and Eddie’s unconventional methods both wow and worry their instructors. But when IA gets visitors it hadn’t bargained for, Eddie’s unconventional methods, bolstered by his teammates’ belief in him, just might save the day. Kennedy has a confident hand in her sophomore novel, particularly when deploying the complicated quantum physics and rocket science that infuse her snappy plot. Along with light cliff-hangers, a geeky atmosphere, and quip-heavy dialogue, her well-defined characters and a sprinkle of romance keep the story’s feet on the ground. Fans of smart, funny sci-fi should get their hands on this one.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
Teens vie for two spots in NASA’s Interworlds Agency in this fast-paced, funny caper through the near future.NASA’s Interworlds Agency exists to explore, assess, engage, and protect Earth in the event that intelligent life forms are discovered on other planets—a real likelihood in the near-future setting of Kennedy’s previous novel, Learning to Swear in America (2016)—and they are looking for a new team to join their ranks. Rosa Hayashi and Eddie Toivonen are two teenagers from different sides of the tracks whose outside-the-box thinking lands them at the top of a pack of the best and brightest, along with another pair that serves as an understudy team due to Eddie’s “unusual test results.” The dynamic between the teens and their instructor, the long-suffering, unconventional Reg, is by turns competitive, sweet, and downright hilarious. By the time the ETs invade, the dynamic quartet makes the bold decision to bring the show to them on their own planet—a parallel version of Earth where they come face to face with slightly different versions of themselves. Mixed-race Rosa wearily rises above microaggressions by describing herself as “an American of French and Japanese descent,” Reg is black, and Eddie is a white boy from a lower socio-economic background, rounding out a diverse cast of characters whose relationships develop organically and realistically. Likable characters and laugh-out-loud dialogue will make this a winning choice for reluctant readers and science-fiction fans alike. (Science fiction. 13-16)

About the Author

Katie Kennedy is the author of Learning to Swear in America and a college history instructor. She has a son in high school, and a daughter in college. She lives in Iowa–where the Interworlds Agency might be–and has a cornfield in her backyard. She hopes Rosa and Eddie land in it someday.

Her website is www.katiekennedybooks.com

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The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson

The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson. May 16, 2017. HarperCollins, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062368270.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 840.

Caroline Carlson, author of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, returns with The World’s Greatest Detective, a story of crime, tricks, and hilarity for those who know that sometimes it takes a pair of junior sleuths to solve a slippery case.

Detectives’ Row is full of talented investigators, but Toby Montrose isn’t one of them. He’s only an assistant at his uncle’s detective agency, and he’s not sure he’s even very good at that. Toby’s friend Ivy is the best sleuth around—or at least she thinks so. They both see their chance to prove themselves when the famed Hugh Abernathy announces a contest to choose the World’s Greatest Detective. But when what was supposed to be a game turns into a real-life murder mystery, can Toby and Ivy crack the case?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Theft, Murder

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. Since his parents disappeared while on a trip to the sea, Toby Montrose has been passed around to every one of his relatives, and now he’s on his last one, so he has to be on his best behavior or he fears he will be doomed to the orphanage. Luckily for Toby, this last relative is Uncle Gabriel, owner of Montrose Investigations, who lives on the notorious Detectives’ Row, right down the street from a famous detective Toby idolizes: Hugh Abernathy, who has a line of customers waiting every morning, and whom Uncle Gabriel can’t stand. When Hugh Abernathy invites Uncle Gabriel to a competition to determine who’s the world’s greatest detective, he refuses. And when Toby decides to go in his place, the contest transforms into a real mystery when someone turns up dead. As Toby and his new friend Ivy and her dog, Percival, begin to question suspects, they uncover secrets about the detectives, including a long-buried history between Uncle Gabriel and Hugh Abernathy. Toby is an instantly endearing lead, and the fictional world of Colebridge, with its sleuthing population, crimes, and Detectives’ Row, is sure to captivate readers. The witty dialogue, clever characters, and twists and turns are sure to keep young sleuths riveted. A dream come true for young mystery fans.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
With his parents missing and presumed dead, eleven-year-old Toby is sent to live with his uncle, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. When Uncle Gabriel’s nemesis, successful celebrity detective Hugh Abernathy, sponsors a contest offering a $10,000 prize and bragging rights as the next “world’s greatest detective,” Toby enters, without his uncle’s knowledge. But when Toby arrives at the manor where the contest’s “murder” is to take place, his hosts’ abrasive daughter Ivy–a would-be detective herself–discovers Toby’s deception and inveigles him into teaming up with her to solve the mystery. Even worse, the pretend murder turns into a real murder, and all the detectives gathered for the competition are now suspects! Clues drop where and when they will be most useful, and the mystery structure is solidly built, with multiple red herrings and surprising reversals that will leave readers guessing up until the climax. Toby’s often-luckless character keeps sympathies firmly on his side, whereas Ivy’s social rough edges humanize her interactions with Toby, even as she remains unapologetically smart and ambitious. With a wink and a tip of the hat, Carlson uses cozy-mystery tropes–motive, means, opportunity; gossipy spinsters with underappreciated sleuthing skills–to create a warm, humorous jaunt that could infect readers with a lifelong love of the genre. anita l. burkam

About the Author

Caroline Carlson holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an assistant editor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Before writing her first book, she worked as a textbook editor and helped to organize the children’s summer reading program at her hometown library.

Caroline grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her husband in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her website is www.carolinecarlsonbooks.com

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. June 27, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 513 p. ISBN: 9780062382801.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Henry Montague is the son of a lord, and as such, his behavior is entirely inappropriate. A lover of vice and hedonism, Monty prefers to spend his time drinking (acceptable) and trysting, both with girls and boys (decidedly not acceptable). Still, Monty is in high spirits as he prepares for his grand tour of the Continent. At his side is his best friend: polite, gentlemanly Percy is the orphaned product of an English lord and a woman from Barbados. Monty, of course, is hopelessly in love with him and plans to make the most of the tour, until his distinct flair for trouble gets in the way. Several miscommunications, one truly terrible party, and an act of petty thievery later, Monty and Percy find themselves on the run across Europe with Monty’s sister Felicity in tow. Tongue-in-cheek, wildly entertaining, and anachronistic in only the most delightful ways, this is a gleeful romp through history. Monty is a hero worthy of Oscar Wilde (“What’s the use of temptations if we don’t yield to them?”), his sister Felicity is a practical, science-inclined wonder, and his relationship with Percy sings. Modern-minded as this may be, Lee has clearly done invaluable research on society, politics, and the reality of same-sex relationships in the eighteenth century. Add in a handful of pirates and a touch of alchemy for an adventure that’s an undeniable joy.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
Eighteen-year-old Monty, spoiled heir to a wealthy estate in eighteenth-century Britain, embarks on a year-long “Tour” of Europe, after which he will settle unhappily into respectable life. One social offense and an antiquities theft later, Monty and his companions (prickly little sister Felicity and lifelong best friend Percy, with whom Monty is hopelessly in love) are on the run from a power-hungry duke. When Monty discovers that Percy–whose social status as the mixed-race nephew of a wealthy landowner is already precarious–suffers from epilepsy and will be permanently committed to a sanitarium upon their return, Monty is determined to retrieve the alchemical panacea that his stolen artifact supposedly unlocks. Mayhem, adventure, and a swoon-worthy emotional roller-coaster of a romance ensue. Lee’s attention to issues of privilege in this setting, and the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender as embodied by the three travelers (and the compelling secondary characters who populate their travels, including a formerly enslaved crew of so-called pirates who have been denied the papers they need to conduct legal seafaring business) add dimension to the journey. At the center of all this, Monty is pitch-perfect as a yearning, self-destructive, oblivious jerk of a hero who inspires equal parts sympathy, frustration, and adoration from readers–as well as from Percy himself. A genre tribute, satire, and exemplar in one: trope-filled in the most gleeful way. claire e. gross

About the Author

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the historical fantasy novels This Monstrous Thing and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (HarperCollins), as well as the forthcoming The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (coming in 2018 from HarperCollins) and Semper Augustus (coming in 2019 from Flatiron/Macmillan). She is also the author of Bygone Badass Broads (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.

She currently calls Boston home, where she manages an independent bookstore, drinks too much Diet Coke, and pets every dog she meets.

Her website is www.mackenzilee.com

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The Road to Epoli by Ben Costa & James Parks

The Road to Epoli: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 1 by Ben Costa & James Parks. June 6, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9780399556135.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nimona meets Adventure Time as a singing skeleton searches for his origins in this full-color graphic novel series kickoff!
 
Meet Rickety Stitch . . . a walking, talking, singing skeleton minstrel. He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

His only clue to his former identity is a song he hears snippets of in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

His sidekick and sole friend is the gelatinous Goo, who Rickety alone can understand. Together they set out in search of Rickety’s past, with abundant humor and danger galore.

Part of Series: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Irreverent humor, Bawdy humor

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Rickety Stitch is not like the other skeletons. Instead of being a mindless drone, Rickety is a skeleton with a soul, a wisecracking minstrel on a mission to discover his past, how he managed to escape the fate of the other skeletons, and what is so special about the mythical road to Epoli, a place he keeps dreaming about. Coming along on his journey are Gelatinous Goo, a sentient, wobbly blob that only Rickety can understand; a two-headed troll that blackmails Rickety into kidnapping a kindly gnome; an insecure imp; and a host of other fantasy creatures, some of which speak in ill-considered dialects. The world that’s been created is a gorgeously realized homage to fantasy-quest conventions, complete with knights in armor, unicorns, suspicious villagers, and ghostly evil presences, and the artwork reflects that in its bold colors and lively character designs. The jokes, on the other hand, are modern, funny, and sometimes bawdy. The first of a planned trilogy will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment of Rickety’s adventure.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
A minstrel skeleton and his wobbly companion embark upon an epic quest to learn their origins in this gloriously ribald graphic tale. Unlike the other, dronelike skeletons, who never tire and soundlessly work, Rickety Stitch has both a soul and a song in his heart. Cast out from his dungeon into a dark and mysterious wood for his ineffectiveness and nonconformity, he and his faithful companion—a silent, shopping-bag–shaped creature named Gelatinous Goo—soon find themselves tricked by a snarky little imp. Goo is imprisoned by a two-headed giant who demands that the imp and Rickety bring him a pure-hearted gnome to eat. The plan goes awry, and hilarity ensues (along with the more-than-occasional cheerfully caustic joke). Rickety has no memories of his human life, and in addition to rescuing his friend is determined to track down something from his past. Costa and Parks’ script is imaginative and laugh-out-loud funny, unafraid to crack a well-timed, verging-on-naughty joke. Costa’s art is unfalteringly, vibrantly buoyant, with many sight gags that effortlessly turn the profane into something adorably laughable. A cliffhanger ending leaves readers poised for the sequel—they will be clamoring. For those who loved Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (2015) and have struggled to find something similar, this may scratch that itch. Don’t be fooled by the cheery illustrations; this is irreverent, bawdy, and lots of fun. (Graphic fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Ben Costa is a writer and artist living in the Bay Area. He has self-published two volumes of his award-winning, martial arts historical fiction comic Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk. He has also done work for IDW, Viz Media, and SF Weekly. Throughout his life, he has maintained a steady diet of samurai comics, kung fu movies, spacefaring farmboys, and tabletop RPGs.

James Parks is a speculative fiction writer and graphic novelist living in the Bay Area. James was weaned on monster flicks, ghostbusting, lightsaber duels, samurai cinema, and comics—with a sober dose of Victorian literature and ’80s cartoons. James is also the author of the Southern Gothic horror collection The Gospel of Bucky Dennis, was a staff writer for Campfire Graphic Novels, and is a current member of the Horror Writers Association.

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Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 272 p. ISBN: 9781492645399.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Until the sudden death of his beloved mentor and great-grandpa—Zachary the Stupendous, as he had been known in his stage magician days—the strangest thing that had ever happened to 15-year-old Marcus was being bitten by two parakeets at age seven. Now, following the rash acceptance of a wager to perform the most astounding magic trick ever, the grieving teen finds himself, in rapid succession, threatened with death by creepy magician Sinister Seamus; uncharacteristically calling out a trio of hulking bullies; assaulted by a pair of armed thugs, because a quixotic new classmate fancies himself a masked crime fighter; and, most dizzying of all, being unexpectedly kissed by just-friend Kimberly. So all Marcus has to do is defend himself from serious injury with card tricks, cope with a massive case of stage fright, and keep from saying or doing something stupid to alienate the equally flustered Kimberly. That’s not to mention the various technical challenges involved in, as it turns out, making a live shark disappear on stage. As he did in The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (2016), Strand flings a visionary, if impulsive, protagonist into encounters that simultaneously test his mettle and leave readers weak with laughter. The card-trick strategy may meet with mixed success, but Marcus is enough of a winner to earn both admiration and enthusiastic applause.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Marcus is a high school freshman whose vomit-inducing stage fright presents a major barrier to his dream of becoming a world-famous magician.Inspired and mentored by his great-grandfather, the retired Zachary the Stupendous, Marcus has been honing his craft since infancy. When his great-grandfather passes away unexpectedly, it is up to Marcus to uphold the family honor by developing and performing a truly spectacular illusion. With an ever narrowing window in which to prepare, combined with stress from school bullies and the aptly named Sinister Seamus, Marcus leans on his few friends to pull off the event. Marcus and his friends seem to dwell in a predominantly if not exclusively white world. Strand stuffs the dialogue full of witty banter, which is at first amusing, but over the course of the book, it gives the impression that each character, including the third-person narrator, is a would-be vaudevillian comic. The result is little depth or differentiation to the characters’ speech, and their endless riffs become annoying rather than endearing. Though the central characters are all high school students, the hit-you-over-the-head humor combined with ridiculous plot elements make the book feel as though it’s written for a much younger audience. Best enjoyed with willfully suspended disbelief and a laugh track. (Fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. May 30, 2017. Simon Pulse, 380 p. ISBN: 9781481478687.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. It’s not always as easy as boy meets girl. In the case of Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah, it’s more like boy is arranged to marry girl, and girl attacks boy with iced coffee. In her delightful debut, Menon tells the story of two Indian American teenagers, fresh from high school and eager for adulthood. While Rishi’s version of growing up involves happily following his parents’ life plan (giving up art for engineering and accepting an arranged marriage to Dimple), Dimple sees college as her chance to escape her immigrant parents’ stifling expectations (which include little more than wearing makeup and finding a suitable Indian husband). And yet, when Dimple and Rishi finally meet, they are both shocked to realize what it is they truly want—and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it. While Menon’s portrayal of the struggles of Indian American teens is both nuanced and thoughtful, it is her ability to fuse a classic coming-of-age love story with the contemporary world of nerd culture, cons, and coding camp, that will melt the hearts of readers.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A clash of perspectives sparks this romantic comedy about two first-generation Indian-American teens whose parents set an arranged-marriage plan in motion, but it backfires big time—or maybe not? In the alternating voices of her two protagonists, Menon explores themes of culture and identity with insight and warmth. Seamlessly integrating Hindi language, she deftly captures the personalities of two seemingly opposite 18-year-olds from different parts of California and also from very different places regarding life choices and expectations. Insomnia Con, a competitive six-week summer program at San Francisco State focused on app development, is where this compelling, cinematic, and sometimes-madcap narrative unfolds. Dimple Shah lives and breathes coding and has what she thinks is a winning and potentially lifesaving concept. She chafes under her mother’s preoccupation with the Ideal Indian Husband and wants to be respected for her intellect and talent. Rishi Patel believes in destiny, tradition, and the “rich fabric of history,” arriving in San Francisco with his great-grandmother’s ring in his pocket. He plans to study computer science and engineering at MIT. But what about his passion for comic-book art? They are assigned to work together and sparks fly, but Dimple holds back. Readers will be caught up as Rishi and Dimple navigate their ever changing, swoonworthy connection, which plays out as the app competition and complicated social scene intensify. Heartwarming, empathetic, and often hilarious—a delightful read. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Sandhya Menon, a New York Times and national Indie bestselling author writes books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). She lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to coerce her family to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Her website is www.sandhyamenon.com.

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Restart by Gordon Korman

Restart by Gordon Korman. May 30, 2017. Scholastic Press, 243 p. ISBN: 9781338053777.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 730.

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.

One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Recovering after a fall, Chase regains consciousness in a hospital bed surrounded by complete strangers—including his mother and brother. After he returns to school, he struggles to regain what amnesia has erased, but what he learns isn’t reassuring. His two old buddies from the football team are bullies. The kids he wants to hang out with now, like those in the video club, were often their victims, and they’re understandably wary of the new Chase. If he regains his memory, will he become the jerk he was before? Chapter by chapter, the very readable first-person narration shifts among seven students, giving readers access to many points of view. Their reactions to the changes in Chase’s outlook vary according to their personalities and their prior relationships with him. The characters are well drawn, and the scenes in which Chase befriends an elderly veteran at an assisted facility are nicely integrated into the novel. A talented storyteller, Korman shows bullying, regret, and forgiveness from various perspectives and leaves readers with ideas to ponder.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Will a bully always be a bully? That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default. Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain. March7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481488754.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

Part of Series: Chloe Snow’s Diary

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-10. As if starting high school wasn’t daunting enough, Chloe Snow has to do it without her free-spirited writer mother—who bolted to Mexico to find her “muse”—and alongside her religious best friend, Hannah, and Hannah’s judgmental, picture-perfect family. Fortunately, Chloe has a caring dad; a new best friend, Tristan; and the lead in the school’s musical! In the spirit of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, Chloe’s daily diary serves as the book’s format. Encompassing an overwhelming majority of Chloe’s record is her obsession with Mac, a senior boy with a girlfriend and Chloe’s secret hookup. Chloe, Hannah, and Tristan all have intense relationships with senior boys, which, aside from seeming a little improbable, starts to become how they define themselves. But despite Chloe’s dominating obsession with Mac, and the book’s abrupt ending, Chloe is refreshingly honest and unfiltered about very real issues facing high-school students: unsteady family dynamics, drinking at parties, balancing old and new friends, and the stigma of slut shaming.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The chronicles of Chloe Snow’s journey from self-absorbed high school freshman to slightly less self-absorbed sophomore.Fourteen-year-old Chloe is technology-addicted and obsessed with getting her first kiss. Her mom has trotted off to Mexico for four months to write, leaving Chloe and her dad behind, which she first presents with nonchalance in her diary. Many of Chloe’s relationships begin to change around the time she unexpectedly gets the lead in the school musical. It becomes clear that her mom is not coming back as promised. She becomes increasingly distant from her best friend in favor of a new one, and she develops a naively close relationship with a senior boy who has a girlfriend, which ultimately brings on a painful barrage of cyberbullying. When Chloe is forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about her parents’ relationship, she is startled into seeing her own behavior more clearly as well. The narrative is told through Chloe’s diary, immersing readers in her singular perspective, though a few long passages are much too detailed to be credible as diary entries. What feels like token diversity among minor characters and Chloe’s passing acknowledgment of her own privilege as a straight, white, middle-class girl come across as superficial, though accurately reflective of life in many mostly white communities like hers. Awkwardness, drama, and a pinch of burgeoning self-awareness. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Emma Chastain is a graduate of Barnard College and the creative writing MFA program at Boston University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

 

Around the Web

Confessions of a High School Disaster on Amazon

Confessions of a High School Disaster on Goodreads

Confessions of a High School Disaster on JLG

Confessions of a High School Disaster Publisher Page

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies. November 1, 2016. Katherine Tegen Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062369888.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.1; Lexile: 730.

From the acclaimed author of The Lemonade War comes a new book starring two smart girls determined to liven up their town—one epic prank at a time.

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie’s big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it’s hard for Maggie to imagine a change.

But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar—complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming!

Humorous, smart, and full of small-town heart, Nothing But Trouble will have mischief-loving readers caught up in the cleverness and determination of two girls who can’t be held down.

Part of Series: Nothing but Trouble (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-7. Two things happen to Maggie the morning seventh grade begins. First, she meets Lena, the new girl who will become her best friend. Next, a practical joke fills the middle-school hallway with happy chaos: tennis balls bouncing, toy cars zooming, helium balloons floating upward, and a toy mouse parachuting down. Soon, “The mouse is in the house!” becomes the students’ rallying cry as the autocratic new principal tries and fails to stop an escalating series of hacks. That’s hack in the MIT sense: to carry out elaborate, creative pranks with precision, secrecy, and flair. Best known for The Lemonade War (2007) and its sequels, Davies brings the same strong sense of narrative along with a well-drawn, small-town setting and a number of believable, sometimes quirky characters. Throughout the book, Lena’s artistic outlook complements Maggie’s engineering bent. An appended activities section includes such related features as “Why Maggie Loves Sir Isaac Newton” and “How to Make a Dada Poem.” A flying start for a new series.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Sixth-grader and budding engineer Maggie Gallagher occupies her fertile mind and connects to the father who survives only in her head by planning and executing elaborate pranks at school. Maggie’s father pulled notorious pranks while in college at MIT. He died before she was born, leaving only a box of notebooks describing his hacks in meticulous detail. She re-creates them at Odawahaka Middle School using money earned from secretly selling her grandfather’s vintage car parts on the internet. Maggie dreams of nothing more than leaving her dysfunctional family and getting out of her dying small town until dadaist new student Lena Polachev chooses her as a friend. Together they become an unstoppable force against the school’s new dictatorial principal. The story is full of stylish and satisfying pranks, some chronicled step by step and others simply mentioned. Toy cars spill out of lockers, ping-pong balls rain down on the principal, school banners are reworded. Where Wildcats ruled, the Mouse is in the house, and what was simply funny becomes a revolution bringing much-needed change to a depressed, evidently all-white community. A vividly realized present-day setting, distinctive, believable characters, subversive humor, and a satisfying ending give this title solid kid appeal. With plenty of threads to hang sequels from, this series opener will make readers roar for more. (activities) (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Jacqueline Davies is the talented author of both novels and picture books. Jacqueline lives in Needham, Massachusetts, with her three children.  She enjoys reading, travel, swimming, going to the movies, and hanging out with her friends.

Her website is www.jacquelinedavies.net.

Around the Web

Nothing but Trouble on Amazon

Nothing but Trouble on Goodreads

Nothing but Trouble on JLG

Nothing but Trouble Publisher Page

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius by Stacey Matson

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius by Stacey Matson. November 1, 2016. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 288 p. ISBN: 9781492638025.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 800.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Arthur Bean is ready to have the best year any eighth grader has ever had. The awesome zombie movie he’s writing with BFF Robbie Zack is definitely going to be a blockbuster. He even has a girlfriend. Yes, that’s right, a GIRLFRIEND! With everything lined up so nicely, he’s sure his teachers will start to appreciate his true genius this year.

Except for the little problem of the movie camera Arthur and Robbie “borrowed” to film their upcoming blockbuster movie. And then Arthur’s girlfriend gets jealous of his friendship with Kennedy. And there’s the actual co-writing, producing, and directing of their film…Drama is definitely on the menu for this year. Arthur would just prefer it stay confined to his script.

Sequel to: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius

Part of Series: The Arthur Bean Stories

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Stealing

 

About the Author

Stacey Matson has worked in a theatre program on Parliament Hill and written theatre pieces for the Glenbow Museum and for the All-Nations Theatre in Calgary. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia. A debut novelist, Stacey lives in Vancouver, BC.

Her website is www.staceymatson.com.

Around the Web

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius on Amazon

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius on Goodreads

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius on JLG

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius Publisher Page