Bite-Sized Reviews of The Area 51 Files, Ghost Girl, Odder, and Freestyle

Posted December 13, 2022 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 3 Comments

Today, I’m reviewing five MG reads. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Area 51 Files, Ghost Girl, Odder, and FreestyleThe Area 51 Files by Julie Buxbaum
Illustrator: Lavanya Naidu
Series: The Area 51 Files #1
Also in this series: , The Big Flush
Published by Delacorte Press on September 13, 2022
Genres: Middle Grade, Mysteries, Paranormal
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Aliens, sassy hedgehogs, and unexplained disappearances . . . Oh, my! Discover the secrets of the universe in this hilarious, highly illustrated middle-grade series from New York Times bestselling author Julie Buxbaum.

"Epically fun!"--Max Brallier, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Kids on Earth

When Sky Patel-Baum is sent to live with her mysterious uncle, she didn't imagine she'd end up here: Area 51. A top-secret military base with a bajillion rules and so classified not even the president knows its secrets.

Also, it turns out the place is full of aliens. Lots and lots of aliens. But they prefer to be called Break Throughs, thank you very much.

As Sky sets out to explore her extraordinary new home with her pizza-obsessed pet hedgehog Spike, she meets her otherworldly next-door neighbor Elvis and his fluffy pup, Pickles. But something mysterious is afoot in Area 51. Some of the Break Throughs have gone missing... at the exact same time Sky arrived.
Where could they be? How can Sky and her uncle convince everyone they had nothing to do with the disappearance? And why does the macaroni and cheese at Area 51 Middle have eyeballs in it? New best friends Sky, Elvis, Spike, and Pickles try to crack the case, but the clock is ticking...


The Area 51 Files is a goofy MG mystery featuring friendships, family bonds, a pet hedgehog/dog duo, and a whole bunch of aliens! First off, the book is highly illustrated, and the illustrations are wonderful! Just take a look at that cover to get an idea of what’s in store. The illustrations are used almost like graphic novel panels so that they help to tell the story (or tell little side jokes, often using the hedgehog and dog in hilarious ways).

When Sky is sent off to live with her mysterious uncle, she has no idea she’s actually going to Area 52 – or that aliens are real. Her sense of reality is thrown into chaos when she is confronted with a whole community full of various aliens, some so strange the human brain has to make up its own form for them. But when some of the aliens are kidnapped at the exact time she arrives, her and her uncle are suddenly suspects. Sky and her newfound friends have to solve the case before Sky’s uncle’s life is irretrievably ruined and Sky is sent away. Of course, in order to do that, they have quite a few adventures and mishaps along the way.

Sure to be a hit with MG readers of books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Area 51 Files, Ghost Girl, Odder, and FreestyleGhost Girl by Ally Malinenko
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on August 10, 2021
Genres: Horror, Middle Grade
Pages: 288
Narrator: Tara Sands
Length: 6 hours and 23 minutes
Source: Library
Cover Artist: Maike Plenz
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Nightbooks, Ally Malinenko’s middle-grade debut is an empowering and triumphant ghost story—with spooky twists sure to give readers a few good goosebumps!

Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, only her best friend, Elijah, believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.

To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.


Ghost Girl is spooky MG horror with heart–not an easy combination to imagine, but it works beautifully in this book. Zee and her older sister are on their own since their mom died and their dad had to leave town to find work. The pressures of that situation are piling up, especially when Zee’s nemesis starts spreading rumors about Zee, and her father. But when a new principal arrives, he wants to help, not just Zee, but everyone in town. He is a bit proponent of self-actualization and encourages everyone to visualize their deepest desires coming true. Somehow he seems to solve everyone’s problems! Except, Zee isn’t so sure she likes the results.

This book goes a lot deeper than the storyline would have you believe. Sure it’s a creepy horror book filled with ghosts and demonic hounds, but it also explores family pressures, poverty, bullying, deep friendships and even, in a few small places, the patriarchy. Kids will be both entertained and enriched by this story!

NOTE: I listened to the audiobook version of this book, which was wonderfully narrated by Tara Sands.

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Area 51 Files, Ghost Girl, Odder, and FreestyleOdder by Katherine Applegate
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published by Feiwel and Friends on September 20, 2022
Genres: Middle Grade, Verse
Pages: 288
Source: Purchased
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Now a #1 New York Times bestseller! A touching and lyrical tale about a remarkable sea otter, from Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate, author of Wishtree. Meet Odder, the Queen of Play:

Nobody has her moves.She doesn’t just swim to the bottom,she dive-bombs.She doesn’t just somersault,she triple-doughnuts.She doesn’t just ride the waves,she makes them.

Odder spends her days off the coast of central California, practicing her underwater acrobatics and spinning the quirky stories for which she’s known. She’s a fearless daredevil, curious to a fault. But when Odder comes face-to-face with a hungry great white shark, her life takes a dramatic turn, one that will challenge everything she believes about herself—and about the humans who hope to save her.

Inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers, this poignant and humorous tale told in free verse examines bravery and healing through the eyes of one of nature’s most beloved and charming animals.


Based loosely on the true stories of otters rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Odder is a sweet verse novel that tells a tale of adventure and heartbreak. The story follows Odder from the time she’s a pup living free in the ocean through to adulthood when she’s rescued after a shark attack and lives in the aquarium. Odder eventually helps rescued pups herself, and the story comes full-circle. I found the story fascinating, right down to the author’s note at the end where Applegate explains much of the real-life inspiration behind the book. Kids will be enchanted by Odder’s playful spirit and caught up in the story of the ways that humans help animals in need.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Area 51 Files, Ghost Girl, Odder, and FreestyleFreestyle: A Graphic Novel by Gale Galligan
Illustrator: Gale Galligan
Published by Graphix on October 18, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Source: B&N ARC
My rating:
4 Stars

From New York Times bestselling author Gale Galligan, a fun, high-energy graphic novel about friendship, family, and the last hurrahs of middle school.

Cory's dance crew is getting ready for a major competition. It's the last one before they graduate eighth grade and go their separate ways to high schools all over New York City, so they have to make it count! The group starts to have problems as their crew captain gets increasingly intense about nailing the routine, and things go from bad to worse when Cory's parents ground him for not taking his grades seriously. He gets stuck with a new tutor, Sunna, who he dismisses as a boring nerd… until he catches her secretly practicing cool yo-yo tricks. Cory wants to learn the art of yo-yo, and as his friendship with Sunna grows, he ends up missing practice and bailing on his crew -- and they are not happy about it. With mounting pressure coming from all sides, how is Cory supposed to balance the expectations of his parents, school, dance, and his new friend?


This graphic novel highlights a sport most kids probably don’t know exists, competitive yo-yoing. The book highlights both the joys and tribulations of working as a team when Cory’s dance group works toward their final competition together. But, in the meantime, Cory is finding himself drawn to something new when he sees his new tutor (a stereotype-breaking Muslim American girl) performing some seriously sick yo-yo tricks. Cory is stretched thin between his new love of yo-yo, his need to improve his grades, and his dance team’s increasingly frustrating practices. In the end, he has to find a way to balance it all and forge new friendships without leaving his old friends behind.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Barnes & Noble’s ARC program. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.**

That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?
I wanna know!


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