Fellow writers will understand Autumn’s quest, but others may not find her tale as compelling.


Autumn is a writer, and although she’s just 12, she is fully ready to be published—or so she thinks.

She’s midway through writing her first fantasy novel, but it’s her realistic writing that finally gets her the attention she craves. Life is made complicated by her disintegrating relationship with her previously loving older brother, Hunter. Since starting 10th grade, he’s become downright mean, even reading aloud to members of his rock band the love poem Autumn composed to her serious crush, enigmatic Cameron—in front of Cameron’s older brother. Autumn seeks revenge, first composing a scathing and untrue review of his band’s performance but then submitting to an essay contest a description of what Hunter used to mean to her contrasted against his recent behavior. Although many of the embarrassing situations she endures will be uncomfortably familiar to readers—especially her uncertain encounters with her crush—Autumn only achieves real likability near the end of this tame outing. Her narrative voice is fully believable but lacks the amiability that would elevate her to admirable or charming. Her parents’ earnest attempts to fix Hunter’s problems add a subplot of mild frustration. In the absence of racial or ethnic markers, readers are likely to see Autumn and her family as white.

Fellow writers will understand Autumn’s quest, but others may not find her tale as compelling. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30164-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.


In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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