Review: Karma Bites by Stacey Kramer & Valerie Thomas

Any tweens looking for a fun, quirky read? Then pick up Karma Bites by Stacey Kramer & Valerie Thomas. It’s a light-hearted story about the consequences of taking on more than you can handle — set amidst the treacherous landscape of middle school and all the social trappings that entails.

Karma Bites is written with a fun voice and Thomas’ & Kramer’s backgrounds working in film & television shine through in the narrative. It should especially come as no surprise that Kramer use to write for Disney Channel’s “Lizzie McGuire” — because Karma Bites definitely has the feel of a Disney Channel-esque sitcom. Crazy hijinks. Colorful characters. Ridiculously silly but still amusing situations.

For a story that supposedly takes place in the real world, I do have to question whether such strict hierarchies of social standing truly exist in middle schools today. The situation at Jefferson Middle School felt completely contrived to me — with so many specific cliques I had a hard time keeping track of them all. (And I honestly don’t recall anything remotely similar to this during my middle school days, but maybe I was the exception?) For the sake of the book, it works. In fact, it’s somewhat necessary to the whole plotline (why else would Franny be so motivated to use magic to make her friends get along?). But it took some suspension of disbelief to make the wild social hierarchy of Jefferson M.S. work for me as a reader.

Still, the characters are all extremely colorful and entertaining — and any reader will find at least one to relate to, whether it’s Kate and her eclectic wardrobe and “slanguage” way of speaking … or Granny, with her trapeze classes and obscure words of wisdom.

It’s also amusing to watch things spiral out of control and follow Franny as she struggles to fix her mistakes. She learns the hard way that actions have consequences — and though Franny’s biggest mistakes are rooted in magic, it’s a lesson readers can still apply to their own lives. Plus, mixed in with all the magical mayhem, Franny is still a tween girl struggling with real-life issues (a changing family; squabbling friends; boys; etc.) These are all life lessons that tween readers will be able to relate to.

Karma Bites is pretty clearly written for younger tween readers (I’d say ages nine to 12) — but there’s definitely a lot of appeal for those readers, and parents will have nothing to worry about. It’s a safe, fun, charming read with characters that the reader can root for.

Here’s the official synopsis, followed by the book trailer:

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. Ouch!

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