Monday, May 16, 2011

Karma Bites Book Review

Authors: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas. Release date: 2010. Publisher:  Sandpiper. ISBN: 9780547363011.

Annotation:  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could fix everything that’s wrong with middle school like magic? Wrong! Franny is about to discover that when you mess with the universe, karma can really come back to bite you.

Personal thoughts:  Although it is somewhat “light” fare, I really enjoy Karma Bites and would recommend it to tween girls as a fun read. I was impressed from the start with the authors’ writing style. It’s often difficult for adults to write in “tween” language without sounding corny or like they’re trying too hard. Kramer and Thomas pulled it off perfectly, creating a entertaining narrative that tweens will enjoy. I will definitely keep an eye out for my titles from this duo.  

Plot summary: Franny Flanders is about to begin 7th grade and the worst thing has happened: in an effort to “go blonde,” Franny’s hair has accidentally been died orange by her best friend. Whoops! Luckily, Franny’s Granny is able to reverse the damage using a mysterious oily mixture. Franny appreciates Granny’s efforts, but things turn weird when Franny spends the first day of 7th grade speaking her mind: something no middle schooler in the precarious position of “clique border crosser” should do. Franny questions her Granny and discovers the truth: the hair reversal mixture was a recipe from a magical Hindu box Granny received from a mysterious monk in Bhutan. As Franny learns more about the powers of the box, she decides to use more magical recipes to fix things in her life. First, she must reunite her two best friends, Kate and Joey. The three were inseparable in elementary school, but middle school caused Kate to become the leader of the “beeks,” the band-geek clique, and Joey to emerge as head of the “poms” and “peaks,” the school’s popular cheerleaders. After she fixes her social life, Franny takes on more challenges: getting her evil English teacher to chill-out, fixing the school’s cafeteria food, and ridding her father of his pesky new girlfriend in an effort to reunite her newly divorced parents. But how far can magic go to correct everything that is wrong in Franny’s world? Franny is about to discover that you can’t mess around with the universe, and that karma really bites.
Review:  Chock full of current language, pop-culture references, and humor, Karma Bites is the perfect “fun-read” for the tween girl of 2011. Franny is a very likable character, and the fact that she’s flawed makes her very relatable. Her adventures answer the question of what would happen if magic could fix all the wrongs of middle school. Tucked into Franny’s dealings with Hindu boxes, magical recipes, and hippie Grannies, however, is a valuable message: Franny eventually learns that she holds the power to making her life good, even if it’s not perfect. Authors Kramer and Thomas use their literary prowess to make the narrative sound as it’s coming from the mouth of a 12-year-old girl. Franny frequently uses fun phrases like “flip me out” to react to different situations. The writing style will hold definite appeal to readers. Apart from the entertaining aspects of the novel, Franny does deal with some serious issues that many tweens experience. Her parents are recently divorced and her grandmother has moved in to help her mother take care of her and her little brothers. Franny is clearly upset about the separation, and believes that her mother and father will get back together. She must also contend with the cutthroat social politics of middle school. Elodie, her school’s “mean girl,” is a vicious bully who enforces a rigid caste system dividing the student body into their rightful place. Her best friends, Joey and Kate, are now enemies and focus on who Franny spends more time with, rather than on Franny’s well-being. Tweens will be able to relate with these challenges on a very real level, despite the presence of magic. Overall, Karma Bites is an effervescent book that young readers are sure to enjoy.
Genre: Fiction/Humor
Reading level: Grade 4+
Similar titles:  None

Themes: Magic, karma, social aspects of middle school, divorce, bullying, cliques.   
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal  and .
Series Information:  N/A 
Discussion Questions:
- Do you believe in karma? Why or why not?
- Do you think the social set-up of Franny's middle-school is realistic? What parts do you think are more realistic than others?
- Describe your experiences with cliques or bullying in school.
- Do you think Franny should get in the middle of the feud between Kate and Joey? Why or why not?

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