cover image The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

Nikki Loftin. Razorbill, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59514-508-6

Loftin debuts with a smart, fresh, and thoroughly modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Nothing is going right for 11-year-old Lorelei Robinson. Her mother’s death has torn her family apart, her father has married a woman who doesn’t like kids, and her school just burned down. Good thing a shiny new school popped up over the weekend, and it’s awesome: there are all-you-can-eat meals, endless bowls of candy on the desks, a playground to die for—and students only attend classes when they want. Lorelei’s new friend Andrew is sure there’s something suspicious about the way the students can’t stop eating (his own weight issues have taught him food awareness), and Lorelei soon comes to agree. The darkness that Loftin layers over her story makes this a mesmerizing read, though some grisly details may be too much for sensitive readers. By incorporating real problems that children face—the death of a parent, peer pressure, bullying, obesity, and learning disabilities—Loftin anchors her characters and creates a fantasy that feels simultaneously classic and new. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary and Media. (Aug.)