The unwieldy plot twists and turns, always creating new questions, but it leaves an uncomfortably large aperture—an...

THE DOOR

Twelve-year-old Hannah Silver, armed solely with some newfound knowledge and her three imaginary friends, crosses a forbidden threshold to try to find the soul of her recently, unexpectedly deceased—likely murdered—mother.

During the same week in which she begins public school after years of home schooling, Hannah learns that two mysterious visitors to her and her mother’s solitary lighthouse existence are returned-from-the-dead Watchers and that she and her mother are Guardians: humans charged with guarding the only door from the world of the living to the city of the dead. Shortly after the visit, Hannah finds her mother’s corpse and, grief-stricken, enters the city of the dead. Once there, she engages in a thrill-a-minute fantasy adventure, touring surreal, sometimes–high-tech neighborhoods populated by souls working toward something called Ascension—think Dante’s circles as written by J.K. Rowling. The short chapters end with suspenseful hooks to keep pages turning, and the pace accelerates exponentially. The third-person-omniscient storytelling, coupled with plenty of humor, keeps the darker implications of the tale at bay. Hannah’s new friends in the afterlife are especially delightful—particularly artistic Stefan, with his pet chameleon and magical paintbrush. The trope-heavy text contains some swipes at bureaucracy, ideologues and belief systems.

The unwieldy plot twists and turns, always creating new questions, but it leaves an uncomfortably large aperture—an unfinished hero’s journey or, more aptly, a literary purgatory. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55137-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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