Blog Tour Review: Jacky Haha Series by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A series that is a lot of fun, but has a few outdated storylines

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours, James Patterson, and Chris Grabenstein for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with complimentary copies of books 1-3 and media kit!

Book Information

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publishing Date:
March 6, 2023

Jacky Ha-Ha is off to theater camp and funnier than ever in this hilarious illustrated novel from James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein’s #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Jacky Hart finally knows the thrill of having people laugh with her (not at her). She tries to put her comedy and theater skills to use in her summer job—but the boardwalk crowds aren’t exactly adoring. So Jacky jumps at the opportunity of a lifetime: an all-expense paid trip to theater camp!

When Jacky gets to Camp Footlights, she realizes she’s way out of her depth. The highly trained campers all seem to know everything about performing, and exactly how to command the spotlight. All Jacky wants is to prove she fits in, but the more she tries, the more she stands out—and not in a good way. With help from her new friends, can Jacky Ha-Ha earn her place in the spotlight…or will she flop?

Packed with illustrations, jokes, and hijinks, the latest book in the #1 bestselling Jacky Ha-Ha series delivers a hilarious and heartwarming dose of summer fun, perfect for reading all year round.    

Content and Trigger Warnings

For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this series, check out

About the Authors

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author. His enduring fictional characters and series include Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, and Ali Cross, along with such acclaimed works of narrative nonfiction as Walk in My Combat Boots, E.R. Nurses, and his autobiography, James Patterson by James Patterson. Bill Clinton (The President Is Missing) and Dolly Parton (Run, Rose, Run) are among his notable literary collaborators. For his prodigious imagination and championship of literacy in America, Patterson was awarded the 2019 National Humanities Medal. The National Book Foundation presented him with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and he is also the recipient of an Edgar Award and nine Emmy Awards. He lives in Florida with his family.

Author Links:

CHRIS GRABENSTEIN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. His books include the LEMONCELLO, WONDERLAND, HAUNTED MYSTERY, DOG SQUAD, and SMARTEST KID IN THE UNIVERSE series, and many fun and funny page-turners co-authored with James Patterson. You can visit Chris at

Author Links:

Review (no spoilers)

If you’d like to follow along with the rest of the tour, you can find the tour schedule here.

I read books 1 and 2 of this series for this tour, so I’m going to review both of them here.

The first book of the series, Jacky Ha-ha, follows our titular character Jacky as she navigates middle school as a class clown whose antics always get her in trouble. Having been made fun of for her stutter, Jacky has grown to rely upon humor to prevent people from making fun of her.

In this first book, the main story revolves around the fact that there is a new teacher (Mrs. O’Mara) at Jacky’s school who convinces her to take part in the school musical as a way of working off Jacky’s accumulated detentions. At this point in her life, Jacky is having a particularly difficult time because her mom is deployed (the book takes place in the 90s) and her dad has suddenly started “working” late instead of coming home to take care of his children.

As the first installment of the series, I felt like Jacky Ha-Ha did a good job of setting up each character by introducing us to their personalities, quirks, and motivations. The book has an eclectic cast, but readers will still be able to identify pieces of themselves within Jacky, her family, and her friends. Themes explored in this novel include learning to stand up for what’s right and developing the courage to try new and interesting things.

My biggest gripe with book #1 was Jacky’s father. His entire storyline revolved around him being largely selfish and irresponsible. He routinely came home late without ever communicating his schedule to his daughters, often leaving them to fend for themselves for dinner and school work. While this is slightly acknowledged as poor decision-making at the end of the book, I felt like the book did a poor job at actually calling it what it was: child neglect.

One thing to keep in mind is that the story takes place in 1991, when parents were less involved in their children’s lives. Regardless, I wish the authors made more of an effort to explain to the impressionable youth that will be reading this book that a parent repeatedly abandoning their duties every night is not normal behavior.

The second book of the series takes place in the summer. Jacky gets a job working at a water-gun booth and a gig in a community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Conflict arises, however, when Jacky finds herself in the middle of several love triangles and attempts to play matchmaker in real life. Things become even further complicated when Jacky discovers that Mrs. O’Mara’s nephew, who she’s supposed to be keeping an eye on, may be up to no good.

Themes explored in the second book are learning that meddling in other people’s business usually gets you in trouble as well as the importance of self-love and open communication. Much like with the first book, my main complaint was the lack of good parenting when it came to Jacky’s mom and dad. I had hoped that having two parental figures in this book would change the parent-child dynamics in a positive way. However, instead what we got was both parents making extremely questionable decisions. Jacky’s father is training for a new job and no longer receiving a salary, and Jacky’s mom (for some reason) decides that this is the perfect time for her to also cut her salary. As a result, the parents sit down with their daughters and literally dictate that they must all work summer jobs to keep the family afloat. Like, what the absolute heck is that?

Overall, the series (at least books 1 and 2 that I’ve read so far) does a good job at introducing middle grade readers to important lessons about self-discovery and growth. I just worry that it’s teaching the wrong lessons about what it means to be a good parent.

Book three was recently released, and you can get it at the links listed above!


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