Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr): Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

Homerooms & Hall Passes

Meet Devis the thief, Thromdurr the barbarian, Sorrowshade the gloom elf assassin, Vela the Valiant paladin and Albiorix the apprentice wizard--your typical group of middle school-aged Bríandalörians. They take on campaigns "thwarting evil. Righting wrongs. Closing infernal gates opened by demented cultists"--you know, the usual. As a break from the quests, the crew plays its favorite game, Homerooms & Hall Passes (H&H), the "role-playing game of nonadventure... set in the fictional Realm of Suburbia." Players embody the roles of "middle-school students" and create characters who fit into different categories (Thromdurr plays Douglas the 8th level Nerd; Vela plays Valerie the 8th level Overachiever). When Devis steals from a cursed treasure horde, the tweens are transported to J.A. Dewar Middle School and into the lives of their H&H characters. All five must excel or they'll "blow it" and be "permanently eliminated from the game"--effectively, "academic failure... means death." (Thromdurr laments this fate: "I had hoped to be mauled by wild pigs... the traditional death of a berserker of the Sky Bear clan.")

Tom O'Donnell's middle-grade novel is both exactly what you'd expect from the author of Hamstersaurus Rex and delightfully surprising. Every chapter begins with text from one of the 27 H&H rule books, giving readers a hilarious, uncanny view of middle school from the perspective of game-makers who reside in a Dungeons & Dragons-style world. Role-players, fantasy-lovers, fans of silly books... all should be entertained by O'Donnell's outrageously funny characters, over-the-top villains and solid one-liners. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness