Review: The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

5 stars (I loved it!).

The Terrible Two cover (link to Goodreads)

Okay, so this is hilarious and delightful. The humor writing is top-notch, not merely zany or crazy like some middle-grade humor but subtle and surprising and *constant*. I mean it. I am in awe of how tightly written this book is.

I loved it as an adult. My third grader loved it. My older boys read it in a day. The first twist isn’t really surprising, but it’s not meant to be. It’s still funny.

Basically, for the uninitiated, the main character moves to Yawnee Valley, a city known mostly for its cows. He was established in the big city as the school prankster, and he hopes to keep that title here, even if he’d rather be anywhere else. But it appears someone else has already claimed the title: he shows up to his first day of school to find that someone has managed to get the principal’s car up the stairs of the school and has blocked the front doors with it.

It’s not really believable. Many of the characters and situations are larger than life. It doesn’t matter.

The illustrations are perfect, and they add to the appeal. But the audiobook is also excellent. I can’t decide which to recommend more. Maybe do both together?

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

3.5 stars.


I heard so many amazing things about this book on Twitter that I gave it a shot. At first it seemed like exactly my thing: a cross between Battlestar Galactica and 2001, with space zombies thrown in. It moved at a breathless pace pretty much from beginning to end. There was a lot to like. But a lot of it felt derivative. And the teenaged main characters’ romance was . . . a teen romance. I’m sure if I was a teen I would have liked it more. As a 34-year-old, it was sometimes cute and sometimes not so much. There was a side character who was so off-putting that I almost stopped listening* at that point. But *spoiler* he died soon after, so . . . 

Notes: *The format is unique. It’s supposed to be a compilation of documents, recordings, communications, etc., thrown together, and you figure out the story between the lines. Apparently it’s beautifully done. I listened to the book, so I can’t vouch for that, but the audiobook was extremely well done as well. There was a full cast, as well as atmospheric noises, so it almost felt like listening to a movie. I can’t imagine trying to convert such a book to audio without going that far, though, because it would have been impossible to follow otherwise.

Also, while all swearing in the book is censored, there is a lot of it. If you don’t want your kids reading stuff like “What the f*** were you thinking?” maybe this isn’t the book for you/them.