cover image Karma Bites

Karma Bites

Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas, HMH/Sandpiper, $6.99 trade paper (348p) ISBN 978-0-547-36301-1

Twelve-year-old Fanny is stressed: her parents are divorced, her father is already dating, and her freaky New Age grandmother, who serves yak butter tea and talks about her past lives, has moved in. Franny also feels caught between hyper-segregated social groups (her two best friends have chosen different sides) at Jefferson Middle School. When Franny learns about Granny's "Hindi help box" of spells that she acquired from a lama she met during her world travels, despite Granny's warnings to be prudent, Franny tries to fix her problems using the spells, which end up working a little too well. Franny and Granny share a strong chemistry, and the book is peppered with deadpan humor and amusing hyperbole, though Franny's habit of comparing her problems to those of people in developing nations ("I live in suburban Fall River, New Jersey, not Gaza. Must my life be so difficult on a daily basis?"), might provoke eye rolling. The plot unravels from parody into implausible slapstick with the appearance of a hip lama and a Justin Timberlake cameo. A few too many ingredients sour a promising recipe. Ages 10–up. (Aug.)