Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Three Dark Crowns

Image result for three dark crowns coverThree Dark Crowns
Kendare Blake
HarperCollins, 2016 398 pages
Grades 8-Up
Three Dark Crowns series #1

In a distant land at an unspecified time a special set of Triplet girls is born to each generation. Each young queen is raised separately and learns to cultivate a magical power. Once they are grown, they participate in a ceremony demonstrating their strength--and then are expected to kill the other two. Whichever young queen is left standing is the queen of the whole land. Three Dark Crowns tells three separate stories of each such queen preparing for the launching ceremony. Katharine is a poisoner, bred to ingest copious amounts of poison with no repercussions, only she struggles with this task and is constantly ill. Arsinoe is a naturalist, meant to tame wild animals and help plants to grow, only her gift has not kicked in and she must depend on unreliable black magic. Only Mirabella is truly gifted. She is an elemental, able to control the basic elements of the earth, including the weather. As the girls prepare for the big day complications ensue, including matters of the heart and shifting loyalties. All three stories come together at the end as the sisters are reunited and must compete. The showdown does not happen as expected and chaos ensues, making the path to the throne anything but clear.

This is the first book in a popular series of the same name, the third having been released last month with more on the way. A welcome break from dystopia, I enjoyed immersing myself in a believable well-visioned fantasy world with interesting characters and a brisk plot line. The plot never slows down for a moment and twists abound, holding my interest and challenging me to predict how it will all work out. The story is fresh and offers a new take on a classic genre. All three queens are drawn distinctly, sympathetically and fully realized. It is hard for the reader to choose who to root for. Minor characters are also interesting and have lives of their own. The girls are tough characters and manage to fight back from the ruling families who are determined to control them as puppets for their own means. Love interests abound and situations get messy and cross camps, making for turning pages. Themes include living your life honestly and freely, communing with nature, the power of friendship, and questions of loyalty. Readers who enjoy fantasy and fairy-tales infused with action and romance will enjoy this entertaining series, which reads fast, despite the long-ish length. The story ends with an expected cliffhanger, leading readers to the next installment.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

Image result for assassination brangwainThe Assassination of Brangwain Spurge
M.T. Anderson
Eugene Yelchin, Illustrator
Candlewick, 2018 523 pages
Grades 4-7

Told by two brilliant children's authors in alternating text and illustration. Anderson narrates with text the point of view of Goblin historian Werfel the Archivist, who is saddled with the unpleasant task of entertaining a cranky elf. The goblins and the elves have been at war for centuries and, finally, an olive branch has been extended in the form of visiting historian, Brangwain Spurge, who has been shot by slingshot into goblin territory to deliver a present to the goblin king. Spurge is picky and ornery and is unreceptive to goblin manners and culture. Yelchin shows readers the prissy elf's point of view in illustrations and we see a very different interpretation of events. Meanwhile, letters from Spurge's supervisor and childhood tormentor are included, conveying an insider's perspective to the motivations of the proceedings as reported to the elfin king.  One misunderstanding leads to another until Werfel finds himself in a heap of trouble and the target of animosity from fellow dwarfs. Spurge, for his part, becomes disillusioned with the mission and finds his loyalty wavering. Who is the true cause of the war and who is the real enemy?

I loved, loved, loved this book. It has rich layers and depth beyond the first glance, so much so that I think I need to re-read it. I dismissed this book at first thinking that the cover looked too dated, but because of the two creators involved, who I have great respect for, and the many starred reviews, AND the national book award nomination, I finally picked it up--and then couldn't put it down. It starts off weird-and then gets weirder. An allegory of war and misunderstanding other cultures, disguised as a fairy tale, Anderson and Yelchin have created a modern tale with the heart of something ancient that reflects present society. Within the story there is action, twists, and humor and surprises, along with a heartfelt ending. This title reminded me of the work of Brian Selznick, yet darker, and with a different effect. The creators use the different formats to express the different points of view; demonstrating that two people can see the same situation in completely different ways. At first the two stories interpret the same situation completely differently, yet as the story progresses and the two historians learn to trust each other and become friends, the narrators are telling the same story, just in different formats. The words and illustrations have the feel of a medieval manuscript. The black and white illustrations resemble ancient woodblock drawings and feel pulled from a centuries old tome. Kids will not be naturally attracted to this book. It will require some hand selling, but those who dive in will find it worth the effort. My favorite book of the year so far! 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Charlie Hernandez & the League of Shadows

Image result for charlie hernandez and the league shadowsCharlie Hernandez & the League of Shadows
Ryan Calejo
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2018 312 pages
Grades 4-7

Something strange is happening to Charlie Hernandez. He starts sprouting horns and feathers and then, if that is not enough, a claw emerges from where his hand should be. It’s not like he can ask his parents for help. They disappeared in a house fire (no remains were found) and now Charlie resides with a kind, yet doddering foster mother. He does not feel comfortable confiding in his best friend. Instead, he finds himself thrown together with popular girl, Violet, an inspiring investigative reporter with nerves of steel, and the two new partners become determined to get to the bottom of this miraculous situation. The trail leads them to a spooky graveyard at night with a secret bunker and creatures straight out of Charlie's abuela's stories. Are these mythical characters from Spanish folklore come to life? It seems that Charlie has a secret power and it is up to him to save the world from unknown spiritual forces. Is he up to the challenge? The cause of the mysterious transformation happening to Charlie, as well as the secret behind Charlie's parent's disappearance, among other mysteries will be revealed as this exciting story unfolds.

The Lightning Thief gone Latino, Calejo dishes up a delicious tale of mythological adventure in this first in a new series. Released this week, a month after the Latin American installment in the new Rick Riordan Presents series, Charlie Hernandez should never-the-less find an audience. Following the same format as Riordan, Calejo plugs in a south Florida setting and Latin American Gods unfamiliar to much of the American audience. I enjoyed this fresh crop of mythical heroes and villains and how the author presented them in a modern way. Spanish words and terms are sprinkled throughout, yet the meanings are deductible from the text. A glossary in the back lists the mythical creatures with descriptions, which was helpful because I kept forgetting who was who. Kids with fresher minds than me may well remember the distinctively eccentric characters from first meeting and not need the glossary. The action never stops and chapters lead from one to the next, making the book tough to put down. All of the plot arcs are resolved, yet Calejo introduces a new conflict right at the end to invite the reader to the next installment in the series, yet to be released. Mythology from places beyond Europe and North America is finally getting its moment in the spotlight and its time is way overdue. Welcome to Charlie Hernandez and all of his mythological friends!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Amulet: The Stonekeeper

Image result for amuletAmulet: The Stonekeeper
Kazu Kibuishi
Scholastic, 2008
Grades 3-Up
Graphic Novel
Amulet series volume 1

This popular series starts out with a bang as young Emily's father is killed in a car accident while she and Mom are also in the car, yet survive. Forward fast to early teen years as Mom, Emily and younger brother Navin move into an ancestral family home with the hope of a new start. The house is creepy and dirty with mysterious noises. Emily discovers an ancient amulet in the dusty library that must have belonged to her grandfather. The amulet seems to grow with power. Meanwhile, Mom gets kidnapped by a mysterious creature and Emily and Navin fall into a distant land while trying to save her. This new land has strange beasts and hidden dangers. A helpful rabbit named Miskit leads them to their long-lost grandfather, who is on his deathbed. It is now up to Emily to carry the mantle by accepting the amulet's power and trying to save the kingdom. She accepts, if only to try to save Mom. A rescue attempt ensues and the gang must battle other unusual creatures, including an evil elf, in order to bring Mom to safety.

The release of the eighth Amulet installment, Supernova, has set my library on its ear. It seems that all of the kids in Fair Lawn are rediscovering this series and are clamoring for the latest book. I would love to read Supernova, yet the waiting list is too long. In the meantime I thought I would give the original volume a second look since it’s been ten years since I read it. Certainly, it holds up and I remembered why the series is so awesome. Perfect for fantasy fans with a manga vibe, Amulet is a great suggestion for smart kids looking for a graphic novel with a bit of bite. The mysterious world is fully realized, the characters are interesting and strangely believable, and the action never stops. There is an element of mystery to the series that will keep the reader rolling from volume to volume to see how it is resolved and the characters become more developed as the series continues. I heard an interview with the author who said that you don't have to read at least the first few Amulet books in order, but I do think that they build and I would recommend doing just that. When we first created our graphic novel section I placed the books under the series title, thinking that the author is unknown and that kids would have a hard time locating them. This has changed and Kazu Kibuishi is force to be reckoned with as one of the best in the industry for both his Amulet series and other work. I would highly recommend this series to all serious graphic readers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The London Eye Mystery

Image result for london eye mystery coverThe London Eye Mystery
Siobhan Dowd
David Fickling/Random House, 2007
323 pages
Grades 4-7

Ted is a boy with Asperger's Syndrome who resides in the center of London. He is brilliant at the weather and critical thinking, but is rubbish at emotions and body language. Life is turned upside down when Mum's estranged sister "Hurricane Gloria" comes to visit reroute to a new job in New York City, bringing along her teenage son Salim. Salim is not happy about the move, but is kind to Ted and his teenage sister, Kat, and the three form a friendship. Interested in the London Eye, the family plans a trip and a free ticket finds Salim boarding the famous landmark alone. As Ted and Kat watch in horrid fascination, Salim never exits the carriage. Aunt Gloria is frantic and the police and Salim's father eventually get involved in the disappearance. Ted and Kat, feeling responsible, develop different theories about what could have happened to their cousin and track down clues. Ted's brain certainly works differently than most folks, but it helps him to work out various conclusions before the police and he must exit his comfort zone to prove that he is right when no one will listen.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time lite, this title offers a first-person peek into of the workings of a brain with Asperger's. We see the disadvantages as Ted struggles with decoding emotions and speaking with strangers, particularly over the phone, and the advantages, as he pieces through the cues to solve the puzzle logically. Readers will enjoy solving the mystery right along with Ted and testing out their favorite theories, as they learn a bit about London and British culture along the way. Kat proves a perfect foil to Ted and the two form an unlikely partnership, yet one that works and brings them closer together as siblings. Aunt Gloria is, perhaps, the most interesting character in the book and steals the show with her dramatics, especially as seen through the eyes of Ted. By book's end Salim is found and the mystery is solved satisfactorily. When this British book first came to the states I read it, enjoyed it, recommended it to kids, and patiently waited for a sequel, yet none was forthcoming. It turns out that Dowd died with only a title for the next installation. British author, Robin Stevens, has picked up the title The Guggenheim Mystery and penned a new novel, following Ted and Kat as they visit Aunt Glo and Salim in New York. It was released last week and will hopefully be just as successful as its predecessor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Image result for shout laurie halse anderson coverShout
Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking, March, 2019 289 pages
Grades 9-Up
Narrative Poetry

Twenty years after the release of Anderson's groundbreaking novel Speak, she turns again to the subject matter of sexual violence and consent, this time offering an autobiographical poetic account of her own experiences that led to the crafting of the classic book. Starting with the background of her parents and moving through her childhood, Anderson traces the elements that made up the person she grew into and the events leading up to the rape at age thirteen that spiraled her down a rabbit hole, taking her a lifetime to process. Recovery, adulthood, healing, and anger at the present male-dominated culture of sexual entitlement in which we live follow, offering readers hope and a call to arms.

I do not like to blog about books that won't be available for publication until closer to the release date, but this book is an exception. I had the opportunity to hear Anderson "speak" last week and was moved by both her words and statistics. While working on a different project a year ago, Anderson became inspired by the #MeToo movement and the amount of women finally feeling brave enough to come forward and share their experiences. She said that the poems started to fall down out of the sky to her, begging to be put on the page. The result is this companion book to the classic Speak, but it is not a sequel. Speak is a fictionalized account of Anderson's experiences written in a cathartic way to get them out, yet not expose too much of herself. In Shout Anderson gets personal and honest and readers get her whole emotional story, warts and all. The poetry is beautiful and carefully written. The poems are arranged chronologically, creating a biography of sorts. Sometimes they are hard to read and uncomfortable, but they are always honest and real. Speak has validated the experiences for a whole generation of girls and encouraged them to find their own voices and strength. Now that generation is grown up and Anderson has become a true presence in the movement. This volume is for these now grown-up readers who need to hear the real story and it feels more appropriate for an adult audience, yet mature teen fans will also find much of value. Through Anderson's efforts and words, as well as those by other brave women, we have come a long way, yet judging by recent political events, we still have a long way to go.

Monday, October 15, 2018

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!

Image result for jilly gino coverYou Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!
Alex Gino
Scholastic, 2018 247 pages
Grades 3-7
Realistic Fiction

Jilly's life is filled by her loving family, supportive best friend, on-line chat friends, who bonded by a love of a particular fantasy series. It is here that she meets a friend, who develops into her first crush. Derek is both black and deaf and the relationship becomes a minefield as Jilly consistently says the wrong thing with the right intentions. When Jilly's sister is born deaf, she reaches out to Derek to help her navigate this new world. Jilly feels that she and her family are not racist, but after an unpleasant incident at the Thanksgiving table, deeply hurting her beloved black aunt, Jilly calls into question all that she thought was true and starts to ask some tough questions. Through uncomfortable, yet necessary conversations with friends and family members, Jilly reshapes her way of looking at the world and opens her eyes to the prejudice around her. When a black deaf girl is shot for not hearing police tell her to stop while jogging, the community rallies and Jilly and her family rally and take a stand against racial violence as well. The relationship with Derek changes into a deep friendship built on shared interests and trust and Jilly's family make the necessary decisions to give her sister the best life possible as a deaf girl in a hearing world.

Trail blazer, Gino, who brought us the groundbreaking title, George, featuring a child struggling with gender identity, now turns to both racial and hearing discrimination. Gino certainly has an agenda, including Black Lives Matter, white guilt, deaf awareness, and racial discrimination. Not on the agenda is internet safety, as Jilly makes a good friend via a social media chat room, but at least when she gets together with Derek in real life, adults are present. Poor Jilly bears a lot on her shoulders as she unintentionally offends both her black and deaf family and friends and then feels terrible about it. This does get the conversation going and these conversations are awkward and difficult, yet necessary. Jilly’s character is a vehicle to expose young readers to injustices happening in their own worlds and to, perhaps, initiate some conversations in their own families. I did feel a bit sorry for Jilly, though, who tried so hard and constantly felt guilty and responsible. I am unsure if kids will pick this book up and finish it for fun, yet the cover is inviting and there are humorous moments. I use to love the preachy teen-pregnancy/drug books of the 1970's and Go Ask Alice with its in-your-face anti-drug message continues to be popular, so young readers may respond to this transparent agenda-driven story. In my library system currently half of the copies of this title are checked out, including the one belonging to my library, which shows that there is a readership.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fake Blood

Image result for fake blood gardener coverFake Blood
Whitney Gardner
Simon & Schuster, 2018 330 pages
Grades 3-6
Graphic Novel

Sixth grade has a rough start for AJ at his Pacific Northwest middle school. His two best friends are always competing against each other and both seem to have had a more exciting summer than he did. AJ spent his summer at the library (gasp!) reading books (double gasp!) and feels like a nerdy turtle next to his two charismatic pals. Also returning this year is his crush, Nia, the smartest girl in the class. Although both have a lot in common, including a mutual love of books, and they are partnered up on a social studies project, AJ gets tongue-tied whenever he speaks to her. Then inspiration strikes in the form of impersonating a vampire. Nia is obsessed with vampire books and AJ thinks that if he can fool Nia into believing he's a vampire than she will fall in love with him. The plans goes a little too well and AJ has even more problems on his hands. More trouble develops as he gets into a terrible fight with his two best friends, revealing some truths, and damaging secrets about the new British 6th grade teacher are uncovered. AJ ends the story contentedly, having learned to be a better friend and to be comfortable with the person that he is.

Debut graphic novelist, Gardener, offers a fresh and funny take on the recent past vampire obsession, which rampaged through teen/tween culture. In the style of other realistic graphic novels, which have been very hot the past few years, a trend introduced by Raina Telegemeier, Fake Blood is unusual in that it features a male protagonist. AJ is a sweet, bookish character, who has no self-confidence, is age-appropriately self-obsessed and thinks the world finds him to be boring. Both boys and girls will enjoy and relate to AJ, giggle at his attempts to be "vampire-cool", and breathe a sigh of relief when he finally gets real. AJ is in constant awe of his best friends, so it is revealing when it is discovered that they are not quite as cool as they make themselves out to be. Although there is a crush at the heart of the book, the romance stays platonic and the two decide to enjoy each other's company without the pressure of labeling it something more. Gardner goes in a surprising direction with Nia's vampire obsession, making her a cool and formidable character, who is all about girl-power. The illustrations are in full color, scan easily, reflect the setting and are uncluttered and kid friendly. The noses are weird and were distracting for me, but that may be a matter of taste. Kids will love this story and walk away, hopefully, loving themselves a little more than when they started reading.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Strange the Dreamer

Image result for strange dreamer coverStrange the Dreamer
Laini Taylor
Little Brown, 2017 532 pages
Grades 8-Up

Two points of view trace the stories of two very different teenagers. Orphan, Lazlo Strange, is raised by monks and eventually becomes a librarian, a young man in a sea of white-haired scholars. He has always felt different and as if he doesn't belong. When given the chance to travel to the far-off land of Weep with a mysterious warrior known as the Godslayer, a place of which Lazlo has always been drawn, he jumps at the chance. Many talented people are among the party, including a young alchemist, whom Lazlo has had uneasy encounters. The Godslayer has gathered them together to try to bring down a large fortress, which is blocking the sun that formally housed evil Gods, who kidnapped humans from Weep and did with them as they wished. The Godslayer killed them all many years ago, yet he unknowingly missed a few babies, including one with a deep connection to himself. These babies are now teenagers and have magical godly powers. Our heroine, Sarai, is the Goddess of Nightmares. She meets Lazlo in a dream and the two begin an unconventional friendship that leads to romance. Can two souls find happiness if they are human and Goddess, mortal enemies, and can only meet in dreams? The action heats up as the Godslayer realizes that he left some souls alive and Sarai and her compatriots are in terrible danger. Twists and turns abound as the action plays out with devastating consequences.

Taylor, author of the wildly popular Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy turns from angels to mythological Gods and Goddesses with individualized magical abilities. The story is original and immersive. It is not for the casual or reluctant reader, but more for serious fantasy readers, such as lovers of Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, and Sarah Maas. I listened to the story on audio and, although I have a pretty hefty commute, it took me a very long time to get through. The book is dense with a lot of dialogue and time spent in dreams, which, although necessary to the plot, encouraged me to drift away, having to rewind. The target audience will fall into this world and never want to leave, perhaps finding the book to not be long enough. The writing is excellent, as can be seen by the excellent reviews and Printz honor distinction. The characters are interesting and the unlikely relationship intriguing and romantic. I appreciated the original idea of falling in love in a dream world and enjoyed the plot twist concerning Lazlo that comes at the end, it just took me way too long to get there. Readers who enjoy this volume can immediately head into the sequel, Muse of Nightmares, which was released last week. The longest line I saw last year at Book Expo was for Laini Taylor, so she definitely has her fans--and they are intense and loyal. A well-written foray into an unusual world for those with the time and patience to invest.

Monday, October 8, 2018

This Lie Will Kill You

Image result for this lie will kill you coverThis Lie Will Kill You
Chelsea Pitcher
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster
Grades 8-Up

Multiple points of view and unreliable narrators relate a murder mystery event gone wrong. One year ago Shane, a teenage boy, tragically died in a car fire. Was it an accident or did someone make it look that way out of jealousy and a thirst for vengeance? Now on the anniversary of the death, five teenagers (or is it six?) are gathered together for a murder mystery competition, rewarding the winner with a college scholarship. Only, there is no scholarship. The "Ringmaster" of this circus is determined to uncover Shane's killer and get he or she to confess. All of the young people have secrets to hide and complicated feelings for and relationships with each other. The evening grows from slightly creepy to down-right dangerous as the truth about the past is slowly revealed and we get closer to discovering the actual events of the night in question. All of the loose ends and motivations are tied up in a satisfying conclusion, but not without injury--and even deaths.

Part I Know What You Did Last Summer and part One of Us is Lying, this thriller will have teens on the edges of their seats frantically turning pages. The action happens entirely over the course of an evening, yet through the night flashbacks slowly reveal the backstory of the characters, their relationships with each other, and the actually events of the night Shane died. The characters are straight out of The Breakfast Club, providing different personalities representing different walks of high school society. Hard to put down, readers will gobble this book up, possibly reading in one sitting. Twist and turns make the plot interesting and readers will suspect all of the young people of committing murder at one time or another. Squeamish readers may have trouble with some of the suspense and violence, yet it doesn't get too gory. Teens will find comfort in that the murderer is revealed, the Ringmaster is identified and justice is served. Perfect for all genders of readers, this is a quick and fast read that will appeal to a wide audience.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Merci Suarez

Image result for merci suarez coverMerci Suarez Changes Gears
Meg Medina
Candlewick, 2018 355 pages
Grades 4-6
Realistic Fiction

Merci begins her sixth grade year as a scholarship student at an elite private school with many unpleasant changes. Her brother is driving--dangerously, relationships between boys and girls are getting complicated, the class mean girl is meaner, she is forced to do embarrassing community service as part of her scholarship, and worse of all, her beloved grandfather is mentally slipping. Merci attempts to navigate the changes with the aid of her tightly-knit extended family, who live in a small "compound" in their Florida community. Relations with the class mean girl heat-up, resulting in destruction of private property and the loss of eyebrows, finally resulting in formal intervention. Merci finds a groups of like-minded individuals by book's end and the reader knows that at least she is not going at it alone. Grandpa Lolo continues to be a worry, but finally Merci gets to the bottom of what is happening with him and has a frank talk with her family members, who have been keeping information from her. Lolo's condition will not go away, yet the reader is left with the feeling that this family will weather the storm.

Award winning teen author, Medina, turns her considerable talents to middle grade with this new title featuring a likable and realistic protagonist. Merci is not your typical heroine. She has some impulse control issues, is a bit of a late-bloomer, has an eye that likes to stray, and comes from a working class family in a relatively affluent community. What Merci has going for her is an irrepressible personality and a loving heart that helps her to navigate even the most troublesome of waters. Her family proves to make a mistake leaving Merci out of the conversation about ailing Lolo, yet they did it out of love and are honest by book's end. The unknown is often scarier than reality and kids will relate to being left out of the "adult business" that effects their lives without having a voice. Merci's problems at school will also be relate-able to young people and they are resolved in a kind, yet satisfactory manner.  This story is simple, yet moves along and is never boring. Readers will enjoy spending time with this new character and her Cuban family and in this fully-realized Florida community. By book's end Merci understands that change is sometimes necessary to make way for new developments, even if it seems scary while you are going through it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

You Go First

Image result for you go first kelly coverYou Go First
Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2018 304 pages
Grades 4-7
Realistic Fiction

Two different narrators tell their stories from different locations, brought together by a love of Scrabble and the internet. Ben Boxer lives in Louisiana. His whole world is rocked when his parents, seemingly out of the blue, announce their divorce. He starts middle school without friends and confidence. A kind encounter from an attendance office worker leads to Ben choosing to run for student council office, bumping heads with the "cool kids" with disastrous results. Charlotte Lockard lives in suburban Philadelphia. Her older father must have heart surgery and Charlotte fears that he will die and feels guilty about the times she was less than kind to him. Her school year also is starting off badly, as her best friend is leaving her to break into a more popular crowd. Both young people find solace and sense in the game of Scrabble and, through an on-line gaming chat-room, become friends. The on-line friendship develops into a "phone friendship", which proves helpful when one of them is in danger and needs a rescue.

Last year's Newbery winner, Kelly, offers another realistic fiction featuring kids who feel socially isolated. For children in this age group, friendships are the most important aspects of their lives and navigating them can be both bewildering and painful. You Go First features a boy and a girl, both of whom are academically bright, struggling to make social connections, as well as dealing with family upheaval. As many folks in our society do, both young and old, they find a like-minded individual through the internet and start to personally connect. I don't know if I like that two books I am reading right now feature internet friendships between children, which I find disconcerting and potentially dangerous, but this is the way of the world to which young people will relate. Readers of both genders will find something to connect to here and may become kinder people after reading this book. Kelly demonstrates that divorce doesn't have to be the end of the world, as Ben Boxers parents seem to remain amicable, sick people don't always die, we all make mistakes, embarrassing moments will pass and be forgotten, and sometimes friends are right under your nose. Both characters find real, in-person connections by book's end and all concludes on a hopeful note, if not a complete “happily-ever-after”. Sure to appeal to the many readers of Wonder and other realistic titles that are currently flying off of library shelves.