August 19, 2014

Reviews: Sisters, Kinda Like Brothers, Finding Ruby Starling

This August brings many stories about sisters and brothers! Three new recommendations for middle grade readers:

SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier

Sisters will have a built-in audience of readers who previously loved Smile and Drama. Like Smile, it's a graphic memoir. Unlike Smile, this one focuses on Raina's family instead of her friends. Sibling rivalry plays out over the course of a family road trip and in flashbacks that reveal the deeper relationship between Raina and her little sis Amara. Funny stories, sweet moments, and little truths about the pains of growing up make Sisters another winner for Telgemeier.


The foster kids Jarrett's mom takes in are usually babies -- not guys his own age. But all of a sudden, here comes Kevon (along with his adorable little sister). Kevon's got family issues, but he also has mad skills on the basketball court and with the girls. It's not long before jealous Jarrett wants him out of his room and out of his life. Kinda Like Brothers hits on a lot of hot topics: child abuse, mental illness, and sexual orientation, to name a few. But Booth handles it all with a fine touch and tells a story that will keep kids reading.


This companion to Rivers' The Encyclopedia of Me (highly recommended!) is billed as a Parent Trap for the digital age. Yes, two girls who were previously strangers discover they are identical twins. But honestly, it's so much more. One of the girls -- Ruth Quayle, the kinda weird skateboarder from Encyclopedia -- is American; the titular Ruby Starling is British. Ruth is adopted, and Ruby lives with her/their birth mom. The heart of the story lies in how this came to be, and how the two girls will come to terms with the situation. Themes of anxiety, guilt, and forgiveness are buoyed by Ruth's often exuberant voice and a side plot about the movie she's making with her BFF Jedgar. Finding Ruby Starling exceeds expectations.

February 27, 2013

Review: The Reece Malcolm List

The Reece Malcolm List
Amy Spalding
Entangled Teen
February 2013

Devan has been collecting facts about best-selling author Reece Malcolm. For example: She graduated from NYU. She lives in L.A. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.

She's Devan's mother.

Now, with the sudden death of her dad, Devan finally gets to meet Reece Malcolm for the first time. She's greeted at the airport by a caffeine-addicted, jeans-and-T-shirt-wearing thirtysomething who seems more like a surly hipster than a mom. And even though she feels more like an obligation than a daughter, Devan has no choice but to move in with Reece and her (perfect, British) boyfriend Brad.

Reece and Devan are like the Gilmore Girls, without all the warm fuzzies. Even though Reece sets up Devan at a sweet performing arts high school and buys her a bunch of new clothes, she continues to give off the vibe that Devan is an inconvenience. Desperate to understand the mother she never knew, Devan gets into the habit of rifling through Reece's things and reading her emails. A healthy parent/child relationship this is not.

And yet—you can't help rooting for these two! Especially in Reece, Amy Spalding has created a character who's lovable despite her flaws. With a strong supporting cast and some serious musical theater nerdery, The Reece Malcolm List is fresh, funny, and tug-at-your-heartstrings touching all at once. It also features some good old-fashioned BOY DRAMA. Highly recommended for teen collections.

January 26, 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath

The Madness Underneath
Maureen Johnson
Penguin Young Readers Group
February 2013

The second book in Johnson's Shades of London series finds American teen Rory holed up at her parents' Bristol home, recovering from a near-fatal encounter with a Jack the Ripper copycat. What Mom and Dad (and her shrink) don't know is that her attacker was a ghost ... one that Rory had the ability to see.

Going slightly mad and desperate to reconnect with her friends in the secret ghost-busting police force, Rory jumps at the chance to return to boarding school in London. Back in the city, she discovers a new power that could help the Shades tackle their latest string of ghostly problems. But it may cost Rory her most cherished relationships—and maybe even her sanity.

The middle volume of a trilogy is always a tricky thing, but The Madness Underneath strikes a nice balance between following up on events from The Name of the Star and setting up for a final book, while also providing enough action to hold readers' interest. We revisit old friends (Jazza, Boo, Stephen—the gang's all here!) and meet some new characters, including a fabulously weird London therapist with a remarkable decorating scheme. Although the ghosts aren't quite as scary this time around, you'll close this book with great expectations for the finale.

Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.