February 15, 2016 Booklist 75 www.booklistonline.com
the outcasts’ table during lunch. Eventually,
however, she finds her own place there and
at her father’s house, where she realizes that
her stepmother, Marnie, is genuinely nice.
Anna is a gem of a character—funny, wise,
and clever. Friend has a finely tuned ear for
language, which is nicely reflected in Anna’s
first-person narrative, where she is usually
circumspect in her speech but sarcastic and
sharp in her thoughts. Her transformation is
sympathetic, convincing, and compelling as
she takes the time she needs to heal from her
own adversity and accept that life isn’t going
to be perfect. Readers will revel in her journey. —Donna Scanlon
Wink Poppy Midnight.
By April Genevieve Tucholke.
Mar. 2016. 256p. Dial, $17.99 (9780803740488). Gr. 10–12.
Poppy is the villain: the beautiful, cruel
queen of the neighborhood. Midnight is the
hero: the thoughtful boy next door who has
loved Poppy most of his life, until moving two
miles down the road breaks her spell on him.
And Wink is the mystery: the odd, unreadable girl who talks in riddles and is obsessed
with fairy tales (or so it seems). But there’s
more going on here than meets the eye, and
the three teenagers’ fates—and the roles they
play in one another’s stories—are far more
entwined and complicated than they seem
at first glance. In airy, atmospheric prose,
Tucholke has constructed an ethereal story
where nothing ever feels quite real. Eerie,
dark, and unusually sensual, this mystery–love
story is similar in tone to E. Lockhart’s We
Were Liars (2014) and will appeal especially to
older readers who are looking for surprising
plot twists, a creepy fairy-tale vibe, ambiguous
narrators, and a world where nothing is ever
really what it seems. —Maggie Reagan
Dragons vs. Drones.
By Wesley King.
Mar. 2016. 288p. Penguin/Razorbill, $16.99
(9781595147974). Gr. 4–7.
Marcus Brimley and Driele Reiter are two
sides of the same inventive, fiery coin. Marcus
hails from modern-day Arlington, Virginia,
and sometimes accidentally sets things on fire
when he is angry. Dree is a metalsmith’s apprentice in the medieval world of Dracone,
where dragons exist and are universally hated.
On the quest for his father, a nine-years-lost
CIA operative, Marcus breaks down the wall
between their worlds and meets Dree. But
strange, extremely powerful drones seem to
have come through with him, and it’s up to
Marcus to save Dree and her world—and
maybe the dragons—from a plethora of evils.
King’s first series (starting with The Vindico,
2012) was widely enjoyed, and this new story
has much of the same energy. Marcus and
Dree are fun, interesting leads, and this mash-up of fantasy and sci-fi is excellently done.
Middle-grade readers will devour this and re-
joice that the ending leaves room for a sequel.
The Girl in the Well Is Me.
By Karen Rivers.
Mar. 2016. 224p. Algonquin, $16.95 (9781616205690).
Not much is going right for Kammie.
Before she moved to what she refers to as No-wheresville, Texas, her father was convicted
of embezzlement, and she was ostracized at
school. Now poor and disheartened, she decides to remake herself and seeks out a cadre
of her new school’s queen bees. That’s how
she wound up with her hair chopped into
short hunks and stuck in an old well. With
no guarantee the girls who lured her to the
spot will go for help, Kammie reflects on the
ways things went wrong and dreams about
what she would like life to ideally be. As
night falls and depleting oxygen leads her to
loop through her feelings, the abandoned girl
is finally discovered. Readers will be eager to
find out if she is rescued at last and if she
manages her life better in the incident’s aftermath. A different sort of bullying book,
with the spotlight never leaving the victim, it
should strike a chord with its tween audience.
By M. G. Higgins.
Mar. 2016. 106p. Saddleback Educational, paper, $8.95
(9781680211115). Gr. 4–6.
Though she’s in Las Vegas to stay with
her father and new stepmom, Tiffany, over
Christmas break, Ignacia Suarez’s high hopes
of visiting the Strip are dashed when her dad
turns out to be a self-absorbed workaholic and
Tiffany an agoraphobic. But what promises to
be a truly boring vacation takes an exciting
turn when Iggy meets Lucas, a young neighbor with a cute puppy—and a father who is
an Elvis impersonator. The latter’s offer to
sneak her and Lucas into a casino to see his
New Year’s Eve show sets the stage for a thrilling night of brushes with both the high life
and the low. And, amazingly, it’s the repressed
Tiffany who climactically comes to the rescue
when Iggy and Lucas have a close call with
casino security. Higgins enriches the story
through Lucas’ borderline spectrum disorder,
Tiffany’s unsavory past, and Iggy’s poise and
willingness to bury her resentments toward
her new stepmom. Uncommonly good high/
low fare. —John Peters
Lily and Dunkin.
By Donna Gephart.
May 2016. 352p. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780553536744);
lib. ed., $19.99 (9780553536751). Gr. 5–8.
“I guess everyone has secrets,” 13-year-old
The Most Important Thing: Stories
Tim muses, and his secret is known only to
his family and his best friend. Born a boy, Tim
knows he is really a girl named Lily. And then
there is her new friend Norbert, whom she
has nicknamed Dunkin (acknowledging his
passion for Dunkin Donuts). Dunkin has a
secret, too: he is bipolar. Though not ready to
make her transition public, Lily bravely begins
to make gestures in that direction: painting
her fingernails, wearing lip-
stick, and so on—all this
despite the bullying she
receives from the boys she
dubs “the Neanderthals.”
Meanwhile, Dunkin has
made their middle-school
basketball team and, to en-
sure he has the energy to
play, goes off his meds. The two young teens
tell their increasingly compelling stories in al-
ternating first-person chapters. Though both
stories are emotionally powerful, Dunkin’s
comes perilously close to eclipsing Lily’s, but
nevertheless both characters are irresistibly
appealing, and Gephart beautifully manages
their evolution. Though in less skillful hands
this might have turned into a problem novel,
it is, instead, a thoughtfully and sensitively
written work of character-driven fiction that
dramatically addresses two important sub-
jects that deserve more widespread attention.
about Sons, Fathers, and
Apr. 2016. 224p. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763681111).
In this collection of seven heartfelt stories,
the indefatigable Avi breathes new life into an
old theme: the relationship
between sons and fathers
(and the occasional grandfa-
ther). Ranging in tone from
somber (“Departed”) to
or Boxers?”), the stories
have in common a psycho-
logical acuity, the presence
of inevitable change, and the grace of Avi’s
simile-rich style. Interestingly, a number of
the stories are notable for the emotional or
physical absence of fathers, and often, when
they are present, they are feckless (“Going
Home”) or bullying (“Beat Up”). In argu-
ably the strongest story, “Dream Catcher,”
a boy with a distant relationship with his
father is sent to visit the grandfather he
has never met. As it happens, the taciturn
grandfather is a Vietnam veteran who suffers
from PTSD. As for the most amusing story,
“The Amalfi Duo,” the grandfather in it suf-
fers from a surfeit of self-confidence that
is shaken when his grandson outperforms
him. The book is prefaced with an intriguing
question: “What’s the most important thing
you can do for your son?” The answer, some
readers will think, is offered not by a father
but, instead, by a prospective stepfather. His
answer: “Love him.” —Michael Cart
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: It would
take a full book just to list Avi’s accomplish-
ments; librarians know it and will sense that
this is one of the author’s more emotional