A typical Patterson plot significantly elevated by its title character.

JACKY HA-HA

A precocious seventh-grader tries to turn over a new leaf and end her term as the class clown.

It’s New Jersey, 1990, and Jacky Hart is the middle child in a family with six other girls. Attention is hard to come by, but Jacky has earned her fair share by being the endlessly funny member of her large, white family. Unfortunately, Jacky’s teachers do not appreciate this goofball attitude. Jacky joins the school play to channel her talents creatively and discovers a passion for performing, but not all is well. Jacky's mother is overseas as a citizen soldier in the run-up to the first Gulf War, and her lifeguard father is spending way too much time with an attractive female fellow lifeguard. A lot of other things happen too, but this is typical for Patterson. His novels are made or broken not by their plots but by their lead characters, and Jacky is the best yet. Fun, smart, emotionally engaging, Jacky is a character that young readers will love spending time with. Sure, the novel could lose about 100 pages and still tell the same story, but Jacky and her sisters are so endearing readers won't feel the effects of the chubby second and third acts until long after finishing the book, and few will really care. Pop-culture references from the ’90s and the 2010s (for comparison) abound.

A typical Patterson plot significantly elevated by its title character. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-26249-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart.

I'M OK

When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.

Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school’s talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who’s African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who’s white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, “the lonely widower” of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and “tries too hard.” Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok’s father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa’s African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1929-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist.

WISHED

From the Fairy Tale Reform School series , Vol. 5

With Rumpelstiltskin and his band of villains still on the loose, the students and staff of Fairy Tale Reform School are on high alert as they prepare for the next attack.

Classes are devoted to teaching battle techniques and conjuring new weapons, which narrator Gilly finds preferable to learning history or manners. But Maxine, her ogress friend, has had it with all the doom and gloom. The last straw is when the agenda at the Royal Lady-in-Waiting meeting is changed from “How to Plan the Perfect Fairy Garden Party” to designing flying rocks and creating flower darts. While on a class field trip to the village to investigate their future careers, Maxine finds a magic lamp housing a genie named Darlene. Her wish that everyone be happy works a little too well. War preparations are put on hold as the school fills with flowers, laughter, and plans for a musical production. But when Gilly is tapped to fill in for the local chief of the dwarf police, things really take a turn for the worse. The students, including fairies, ogres, and the part-human/part-beast offspring of Beauty and the ex-Beast, focus on friendship and supporting one another in spite of their differences. Humility, forgiveness, and loyalty are also highly regarded in the FTRS community. Human Gilly is white, but there is racial as well as species diversity at FTRS.

An entertaining continuation to a magical series that celebrates diversity with a magical twist. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5167-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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