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.
Reading level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles: None
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.
Themes: Magic, karma, social aspects of middle school, divorce, bullying, cliques.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal and www.teensreadtoo.com .
Series Information: N/A
Franny Flanders – Witty and clever 7th grader who seeks to use her Grandma’s magic Hindu box to right all the wrongs in her life. She struggles to cope with her parents’ divorce, the animosity between her two best friends, and with Elodie, the school bully.
Mathilda “Granny” – Franny’s whimsical, new-age grandmother. At first distant from Franny, the pair become close as she helps Franny navigate life in middle school.
Joey– One of Franny’s best friends. She is the leader of the cheerleading squad at her school, known as the “poms,” and is a member of the “peaks, the popular group.
Kate – Franny’s other best friend. She is the leader of the “beeks,” the band geeks, and is also the drum major for the marching band.
Elodie – The most powerful popular girl in Franny’s school. She refers to herself as “La Principessa,” and rules the cliques with an iron fist. She is a cruel bully, but is friends with Joey and tolerates Franny.
Alden –Franny’s friend and crush from art class.
Naomi – Franny’s father’s new girlfriend. She is beautiful and kind, but Franny believes she stands in the way of her parents reuniting.
Marsha Whalley – The school outcast. Franny sympathizes with her and tries to give her more self confidence.
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.