A bunt at best, but Green’s a good enough storyteller to keep readers in the game.

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BASEBALL GENIUS

Hooking up with a renowned shortstop-turned-publisher, Green shows that the premise of his Football Genius (2007) plays just as well in another sport.

It’s not a straight remake, but Green does recycle select plot elements and character types along with said premise. Hot to play for the local 13-and-under Rockets despite its starting pitcher, who is both a bully and the favored son of the team’s brutal coach, Jalen steals a bag of autographed baseballs from aging Yankees’ superstar James Yager to peddle for the requisite $990. Caught, he escapes punishment by claiming so insistently that he can predict pitches that the skeptical but slumping Yager brings him to Yankee Stadium for a tryout. Jalen does have a gift, though it turns out to be a fitful one. Green’s biracial protagonist (white and black) leads a cast that includes a struggling single dad who speaks in a cheesy Italian accent (“I take-a you shoes off….You close-a the eyes”), a standard-issue spunky-girl pal, and an admixture of actual sports personalities and athletes—including the likewise biracial Jeter, who claims his shared title-page credit by offering encouraging platitudes in a gratuitous cameo. The tale offers plenty of sports action as it scrambles from base to base past sudden obstacles and personal challenges.

A bunt at best, but Green’s a good enough storyteller to keep readers in the game. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6864-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Jeter Children's/Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam.

SPY SCHOOL AT SEA

From the Spy School series , Vol. 9

In a new caper, the Spy School team thwarts a fiendish scheme on the high seas.

A fresh chance to catch up to world-class gourmand and perennial foe Murray Hill plants dogged CIA junior agent Ben Ripley and associates—including markedly more competent classmate Erica Hale and her equally able mom, Catherine—aboard the Emperor of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, for a fresh round of ridiculously destructive chases, startling twists, and repeated attempts on the hapless young spy’s life that are somehow always averted in the nick of time. Along with adding a grandfatherly, eco-conscious Costa Rican drug lord to the supporting cast, Gibbs flirts with stereotypes by trotting in, among the few characters who don’t at least present as White, a Chinese teen given to muddling her English idioms, her bling-loving mother, and a chipper shipboard event manager of Australian Indigenous descent. Still, the revved-up plot will leave readers as breathless as Ben is in the wake of a final, unexpected turn in his relationship with Erica. Finally, finally nabbing the slobby supervillain (at least for now) as well as saving the lives of hundreds of oblivious, hard-partying onboard tourists must count for something.

The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam. (Thriller. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7943-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Light on gore and corpses; otherwise a full-bore, uncomplicated shriekfest.

VACANCY

Does anyone who volunteers to spend a night in a derelict haunted hotel on a dare deserve what they get?

“The hotel is hungry. And we aren’t leaving here until it’s fed.” In what reads like a determined effort to check off every trope of the genre, Alexander sends new arrival Jasmine, along with two friends and several dozen other classmates, to the long-abandoned Carlisle Hotel for the annual seventh grade Dare—touching off a night of terror presided over by the leering, autocratic Grand Dame and complete with sudden gusts and blackouts, spectral visions, evil reflections in mirrors, skeletons, a giant spider, gravity reversals, tides of oily black sludge sucking screaming middle schoolers down the drain, and so much more. (No gore, though, aside from a few perfunctory drops of blood from one small scratch.) The author saves a twist for the end, and as inducement to read alone or aloud in the dark by flashlight, both his language and the typography crank up the melodrama: “He walks toward us, past the mirror, and I see it— / a pale white face in the reflection, / a gaunt, skeletal grimace, / with sharpened teeth / and hollow black eyes, staring at him / with its mouth / wide / open / in a scream….” Jasmine presents White; her closest friends are Rohan, whose name cues him as South Asian, and Mira, who has dark skin.

Light on gore and corpses; otherwise a full-bore, uncomplicated shriekfest. (Horror. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-70215-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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