I KNOW WHO LIKES YOU

In this amiable, and considerably superior, sequel to The Beloved Dearly (2002), friends fall apart, then draw back together in school, on the baseball field—and in charm school. Socked with a series of whammies, from a fly ball in the face to an anonymous love note in his backpack, from the news that the Central Comets’ star pitcher Swimming Pool is off the team unless she can pass a charm school course, to the sight of his widowed dad dancing in the living room with the Cat Lady from down the street, self-appointed team manager Ernie has a lot on his plate. Fortunately, he also has smarts, a generous measure of common sense, and a world-class gift of gab—all of which is stretched to the limit when Swimming Pool, despite good intentions, flunks out. Climaxed by a dazzlingly ingenious costume party and played out by a cast of teasing, but never mean-spirited preteens, plus a few grownups who actually have a clue, this mild but relentless farce will keep young readers solidly entertained from first page to last. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85419-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2004

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HOW TO STEAL A DOG

Georgina and younger brother Toby begin a homeless life living in Mom’s car, having been evicted when Dad leaves. Mom tries her best to work two minimum-wage jobs in order to make the security deposit for a new apartment while the kids struggle daily to maintain normalcy in and out of school. Desperate to help Mom gain some significant cash, Georgina concocts a grand scheme to steal a dog, dupe the owner into offering a $500 reward and then return the designated pooch for the cash. As crazy as this sounds, O’Connor weaves a suspenseful and achingly realistic story, fleshing out characters that live and breathe anxiety, fortitude and a right vs. wrong consciousness. Colorful, supporting roles of a wise, kind vagrant and a lonely, overweight dog owner round out this story of childhood helplessness, ingenuity and desolation. Georgina’s reflections in a secretly kept “how-to” journal will have kids anticipating her misconceptions about the realities of theft and deception. A powerful portrayal from an innocently youthful perspective. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 6, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-33497-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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