Bound To Stay Bound

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 Author: Winans, Justine Pucella

 Publisher:  Bloomsbury Children's Books (2023)

 Classification: Fiction
 Physical Description: 280 p.,  22 cm

 BTSB No: 955742 ISBN: 9781547612543
 Ages: 8-12 Grades: 3-7

 Monsters -- Fiction
 Kidnapping -- Fiction
 Gender identity -- Fiction
 Fantasy fiction

Price: $22.58

When twelve-year-old River's only friend is kidnapped and dragged to the terrifying spirit world of The Otherwoods, they have no choice but to face the world's monsters and their own fears to become the hero they were destined to be.

   Kirkus Reviews (07/15/23)
   School Library Journal (+) (11/17/23)
   Booklist (+) (09/01/23)

Full Text Reviews:

Booklist - 09/01/2023 *Starred Review* It’s not easy being the only person who can see monsters, much less ignoring them when they pop up in class or take up residence under your bed, but River Rydell does their best to strap on blinders and blend in with the crowd. The latter is harder after River comes out as nonbinary at the start of fifth grade, a step that marks them as “different” from their fellow students and can’t be helped by talking about it. The Otherwoods, where the monsters live, has been trying to lure in River their whole life, but they have simply noped out of its enticements, choosing the company of their faithful cat, Mr. Fluffy Pancakes, over human friendships that monsters could use against River. Unfortunately, River’s careful system is obliterated when their crush, Avery, extends an offer of friendship—and is promptly snatched by a monster. River knows they are the only one who can save her, so they nauseously step through a portal to the Otherwoods—accompanied by Pancakes, of course. Winans’ nightmarish monster realm holds horrors and revelations as River endeavors to find Avery without dying first. River’s sarcasm injects welcome humor into the narrative, which is as much about their personal journey toward self-confidence and silencing bullies as it is about surviving literal monsters. This reluctant hero will mean the world to many readers and be beloved by all. - Copyright 2023 Booklist.

School Library Journal - 11/17/2023 Gr 4–7—Reluctant seer River Rydell is haunted by spirits, grotesque monsters, and unexpected portals to The Otherwoods: an eerie, spectral forest that seems bent on luring them into its depths. A naturally anxious person, River is overwhelmed by everyday tween fears like talking to their crush, Avery, or standing up to their cruel teacher, Mrs. Deery, who insists on deadnaming them. In comparison, facing Charles—the drooling insectoid monster who lives under their bed—seems impossible, and so River suffers through the constant stream of ghosts, beasts, and portals the only way they can: by actively ignoring them. When Avery is dragged away by a monster into The Otherwoods, River must gather all their strength and their cat, Mr. Fluffy Pancakes, and venture through a dark portal for the first time to bring her back. River's very human struggles with facing fears, learning to trust in allies, and being truthful about themself will resonate with many tweens, even the non-magical kind. Mr. Fluffy Pancakes, River's heroic sidekick, leaps off the page with humorous body language and expressions that speak louder than actual words. Although the monsters and spirits are very one-dimensional throughout the story, the author sticks the landing with a big, final reveal, adding some complexity to their general scariness and leaving the window open just a crack for a possible sequel. River is nonbinary and described as having light skin, while Avery is pansexual and Mexican American. VERDICT A first purchase for middle school libraries, this underdog hero fantasy is recommended for fans of Tae Keller's work and Roshani Chokshi's "Aru Shah" series.—Catherine Cote - Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.

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