Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review: Karma Bites by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

Karma Bites
Author: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Publication: Sandpiper (August 23, 2010)

Description: Life seems to have it in for Franny Flanders.

Her best friends aren’t speaking, her parents just divorced, and her hippie grandmother has moved in. The only karma Franny’s got is bad karma.

Then Franny gets her hands on a box of magic recipes that could fix all of her problems. It could even change the world! Finally, life is looking up.

But Franny is about to learn that magic and karma aren’t to be played with. When you mess with the universe, it can bite back in unexpected ways.


My Thoughts: This was a cute middle grade novel that mixed middle school life and magic. Franny was tired of the way things were at her middle school. Her two best friends couldn't stand each other and Franny was constantly running between them. The queen of the school was evil and hated Franny. Her English teacher was making them study Beowulf and giving out long assignments. The food in the cafeteria was awful. And, worst of all, the boy she was crushing on didn't even notice her.

Franny also had a hair disaster on the day before middle school started. Luckily, her eccentric Granny, who has recently come to live with the family after Franny's parents' divorce, had a magic box in the closet which solved the problem but with a small side effect of too much frankness on Franny's part. Franny is determined to use the magic box to solve her other problems with middle school.

The spells from the box were hidden in recipes - which are included in the book. You could try Be-Brilliant Banana Bread or Sensationally Sexie Smoothie. (I'd recommend leaving out the magical parts like step 6 in the blondies recipe which requires doing a headstand for one minute while the blondies bake - just in case the magic works.) Things seem to be going all-right until the side effects kick in leaving Franny scrambling to get things back to normal. Her antics are amusing.

I did have one small problem with this story. I could accept the outrageous, eccentric Granny and the magic recipe box but I had trouble believing in Franny. I have worked with 12-year-olds for many years now as a media specialist but Franny just didn't ring true. At the beginning, I was convinced that she was 12 going on 40. The story is told from her point of view and it just seemed too old and too articulate. Later on in the story, when she is trying to break up her father's new romance, she was truer to the 12 year olds I know and behaving more like she was six. I know 12-year-olds are volatile but not that volatile. After the middle of the book, Franny seemed more real to me.

The book was filled with lots of humorous moments - one friend who was learning foreign languages by sprinkling a word of the day into her vocabulary, another friend who was into "slanguage", an art teacher called Call Me Jeff, the Bhutanese monk who loved boxed mac and cheese and Bubblicious gum - but at heart it was a story of friendship. 

I thought it was an entertaining book but I am not quite sure who the audience would be. I think middle graders could feel that the authors were making fun of middle schoolers. I think high school students, however, might enjoy the look back at middle school.

Favorite Quote:
Granny is the type of person who says things like, "If you're a Leo, you might want to avoid tomatoes, especially if there is an Aquarius in the room." When Granny makes comments along those lines, we all just nod, because, really, how can you respond to that?"
Challenges: RYOB Reading Challenge, In the Middle Reading Challenge, 2010 YA Debut Author Challenge


  1. I really enjoyed this review - the book sounds very intriguing, and you've made a considered approach to it, which lets me know all the pros and cons. Good job!

    (Came here via YA Addict comment exchange programme)

  2. I can definitely see middle grade students LOVING this book. It always bothers me when younger characters are portrayed as older than they truly are.


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