Middle school angst tempered by humorous insights.

WE ARE PARTY PEOPLE

Pixie has contentedly played introvert to her extroverted parents, but now circumstances demand that she expand her limited comfort zone.

Mom had to leave over a month ago to visit her own ailing mother in Fresno, so the white 12-year-old and her dad, Dan the Man, must run the family business—preparing, producing, and running birthday parties—without charismatic Mom. Pixie is infuriated when her father announces, “We need you to be a mermaid next Saturday.” “Next Saturday” means in approximately two weeks, and Pixie is determined to avoid the assignment. For years, she has been an organized, quietly competent part of the business. Meanwhile, she and her less-than-popular friends join a class-president campaign for the seemingly self-assured Sophie, a white classmate whose personality does as quick an about-face as Pixie’s by story’s end. Pixie narrates in the present tense, with plenty of flashbacks, musings, and editorializing, running the full gamut from humorous to dead serious. Occasionally, her confessions reveal a tendency that seems to veer beyond shyness into acute anxiety. The strongest chapters are the lively accounts of how Pixie and Dan organize and run parties without Mom. As Pixie takes risks, she moves beyond self-consciousness and even faces her former nemesis. Unfortunately, the character arc may have some readers inferring that an outgoing, entertaining personality is superior to one of quiet supportiveness. Racial and sexual diversity exist among secondary characters.

Middle school angst tempered by humorous insights. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30388-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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