Book List

Best Teen Books of 2012: In Other Worlds

Working with the darker threads of Barrie’s bittersweet classic, Anderson weaves an enchanting tale.

TIGER LILY

It’s no paradise—white-sand beaches and spectacular sunsets come with mud, mosquitoes and croc-infested swamps—but guided by fragile, insect-size faerie Tink, readers are drawn into this richly re-imagined Neverland anyway.

Tink is obsessed with Tiger Lily, whose tribe avoids pirates and Peter Pan’s lost boys, believed to carry the aging disease. (Neverlanders stop aging when some life-defining event occurs.) Adopted daughter of shaman Tik Tok, Tiger Lily is proud and competitive, kept at a wary distance by her peers except for gentle Pine Sap, whose unconditional love she appreciates but doesn’t return. Athletic Tiger Lily, nonathletic Pine Sap and Tik Tok, whose identity doesn’t match his gender, share a bond that’s shaken after Tiger Lily rescues an English shipwreck survivor, then falls in love with Peter, following him into an emotional wilderness as intoxicating and dangerous as Neverland itself. Equally strong passions rule psychotic Smee, alcoholic Hook and, especially, Peter, with his need to be best—from winning games to protecting the lost boys. He’s irresistible; even mermaids, with their long hair and sharp teeth, aren’t immune. Tink’s love and helplessness (faeries read thoughts but cannot speak) become a source of tension and metaphor in this post-colonial fable that covers a lot of ground: wilderness and civilization, gender and power, time and change.

Working with the darker threads of Barrie’s bittersweet classic, Anderson weaves an enchanting tale. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-200325-6

Page Count: 300

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

THE DROWNED CITIES

In the visceral and deeply affecting companion to the Printz Award–winning Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi returns to a dark, war-torn dystopian future in which severe climatic change and years of political upheaval have left the United States a bloodied and ravaged landscape.

Bands of child soldiers roam from village to village, raping, pillaging and brutally murdering, all in the name of endless civil war. Against the backdrop of this blood-soaked chaos, two unlikely allies, a crippled teenage “war maggot” and a half-man/half-beast genetically altered killing machine, risk their lives and their freedom to save a boy forced into servitude by rebel soldiers. Mahlia and Tool (whom readers may recognize from Ship Breaker) venture deeper and deeper into the Drowned Cities, each fueled by unwavering loyalty. As they do, readers are given glimpses of proof that love and humanity can shine through even the most unimaginable darkness. Arguably, the novel’s greatest success lies in the creation of a world that is so real, the grit and decay of war and ruin will lay thick on the minds of readers long after the final page. The narrative, however, is equally well-crafted. Told in the third person, the novel alternates between Mahalia's and Tool’s stories, allowing both characters the time and space to imprint themselves on readers’ hearts.

Breathtaking. (Dystopian. 14 & Up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-05624-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

This one goes to the head of the class.

THE DEMON CATCHERS OF MILAN

From the Demon Catchers of Milan series , Vol. 1

To the recent crop of strong debuts in an overcrowded literary arena add this series opener, a tale of demonic possession and a centuries-old family trade in exorcism.

Life in Mia’s loving, if overprotective, Italian-American family is upended when a horrifying demon enters and nearly kills her. After Giuliano Della Torre and his grandson Emilio, long-estranged relatives from Milan, arrive and drive it out, they talk Mia’s reluctant parents into letting her return to Italy with them. For her safety, she’s sequestered in the family’s home and adjacent candle shop. Studying Italian history and language, Mia comes to love her family (including some of its ghosts) and heritage, even the scary bits, but she increasingly resents confinement, longing to explore this rich new world. Cliché-free characters—patriarch Giuliano, his wife Laura, gorgeous Emilio and his sister, Francesca, especially—appear to have lives of their own beyond serving the needs of the plot. The demons themselves are haunting, multifaceted creatures that are both pathetic and extremely dangerous; the evil they project is complex and pain-ridden. Fortunately Mia demonstrates a strong gift for the family trade, which, like the novel’s other elements (the food will have readers salivating), is portrayed in exquisite, affectionate detail.

This one goes to the head of the class. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60684-314-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, get going; if you’re already a fan, why are you even reading this review? (Urban...

BLACK HEART

From the Curse Workers series , Vol. 3

The conclusion to Black’s brilliant and unusual Curse Workers trilogy lives up to its predecessors.

After everything he’s been through, it’s hard to believe Cassel has any more tricks up his sleeve: He's figured out the truth about himself and signed on as a Fed-in-training, as has his charming and utterly unreliable older brother. But of course things don’t go as planned; there are a lot of long cons Cassel has set in play or disrupted whose ripples are still being felt. And there’s Lila, Cassel’s best friend and the love of his life, who is also the rising head of a crime family—and who hates Cassel’s guts. Black’s gotten the world of her novel down perfectly, a fascinating alternate Now in which the debate over curse workers (magic wielders) feels uncomfortably familiar (corrupt government, dispossessed citizens), and Cassel’s voice never falters. If this volume has a bit less punch than the previous two, it’s only because readers know to expect the unexpected, not because the plotting is any less tight and twisty. And the conclusion, which is happier than might have been expected but not ideal and certainly not pat, is the perfect end to this gem of a trilogy.

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, get going; if you’re already a fan, why are you even reading this review? (Urban fantasy/thriller. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0346-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Pulse-pounding thrills leavened with laughter.

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES

A satisfying conclusion to ghostly Anna’s terrifying story comes with more heart-thumping suspense and clever quips as Cas tries to save her from an undeserved, dreadful fate.

In the outstanding Anna Dressed in Blood (2011), the ghost, Anna, saved Cas, the ghost-killer, by dragging the voodoo monster, Obeahman, down into Hell. Now she’s back, asking Cas to rescue her, and he’s determined to do it despite all advice to the contrary. This sequel takes Cas and his friends to Britain and a secret cult that wants Cas’ athame, the magical knife that kills ghosts. There he meets Jestine, who believes she should be the next athame warrior, although unlike Cas, she wants to kill ghosts whether or not they’re dangerous to humans. She joins Cas for the final showdown against the Obeahman, who ate both Cas’ cat and his father and now holds Anna hostage. Blake provides enough background explanation to bring new readers into the story, but for full appreciation, readers should start with book one. This new author has a serious talent for action but also for delicious dry humor (“I’ve sort of been slacking off in my voodoo studies. I’ve got trigonometry, you know?”). The exciting conclusion leaves the coast clear for a whole series starring Cas or for something entirely different, whatever the author wishes. Either way, Stephen King ought to start looking over his shoulder.

Pulse-pounding thrills leavened with laughter. (Paranormal thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2866-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration...

ABOVE

In a world where "Sick's the same as Freak Above," only below is Safe.

Safe is both adjective and noun in Matthew’s world, both the feeling and the subterranean haven built by claw-handed Atticus. Matthew is the Teller of Safe, the person who keeps everyone's stories and retells them. Its denizens are those unwanted Above: the mentally ill, the marginal—and the Cursed. He loves the fragile, honey-haired Ariel, whom he found on patrol in the sewers around Safe and who turns into a honeybee when under stress. Bobet starts her surreal fable/adventure explosively, with a catastrophic raid by the terrifying shadows that kills leader Atticus and scatters Safe's residents. Matthew, Ariel and two others make their way alone to a sympathetic doctor Above to regroup and, they hope, retake Safe. Above, Matthew finds his received history continually under challenge. Having been the first child born in Safe, Matthew sees it as the only reality. Occasionally interspersing Matthew's tightly filtered, present-tense account with the Tales of Safe, the author rarely gives readers an opportunity to see what may be objectively "real," making for a slightly claustrophobic, normality-inverting experience.

While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-29670-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Not for the faint of heart due to both subject and length, but the intricate plot and magnificently imagined details of...

THE DIVINERS

From the Diviners series , Vol. 1

1920s New York thrums with giddy life in this gripping first in a new trilogy from Printz winner Bray.

Irrepressible 17-year-old Evie delights in her banishment to her Uncle Will’s care in Manhattan after she drunkenly embarrasses a peer in her Ohio hometown. She envisions glamour, fun and flappers, but she gets a great deal more in the bargain. Her uncle, the curator of a museum of the occult, is soon tapped to help solve a string of grisly murders, and Evie, who has long concealed an ability to read people’s pasts while holding an object of their possession, is eager to assist. An impressively wide net is cast here, sprawling to include philosophical Uncle Will and his odd assistant, a numbers runner and poet who dreams of establishing himself among the stars of the Harlem Renaissance, a beautiful and mysterious dancer on the run from her past and her kind musician roommate, a slick-talking pickpocket, and Evie’s seemingly demure sidekick, Mabel. Added into the rotation of third-person narrators are the voices of those encountering a vicious, otherworldly serial killer; these are utterly terrifying.

Not for the faint of heart due to both subject and length, but the intricate plot and magnificently imagined details of character, dialogue and setting take hold and don’t let go. Not to be missed. (Historical/paranormal thriller. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-12611-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

As the clock ticks down on Heidi's soul, readers will be rooting for both Jerome and Heidi with all their hearts.

DEVINE INTERVENTION

Jerome is no teen angel.

A hell raiser when alive and killed by his cousin in eighth grade in an unfortunate archery accident, he has spent his afterlife in Soul Rehab assigned to Heidi in an attempt to win his way into Heaven. Not that he's very committed to the notion; he lost his "Guardian Angel's Handbook" pretty much right away, but he sort of tries. Heidi has more or less enjoyed Jerome's company, though he could sometimes be annoying. When Heidi, having experienced unendurable humiliation in a high-school talent show, ventures onto thin ice and falls through, Jerome does his best to save her soul—as much for her own sake, he's surprised to find, as for his. Brockenbrough devises a devilishly clever narrative, alternating Jerome's first-person account with Heidi's tightly focused third-person perspective. Tying both together are commandment-by-commandment excerpts (often footnoted) from Jerome's lost handbook, each stricture slyly informing the succeeding chapter. The rules governing Jerome's afterlife lead to frequently hysterical prose. He can't swear, of course, so he substitutes euphemisms: "… if I weren't so chickenchevy"; "It was a real mind-flask." Beneath the snark, though, runs a current of devastatingly honest writing that surprises with its occasional beauty and hits home with the keenness of its insight.

As the clock ticks down on Heidi's soul, readers will be rooting for both Jerome and Heidi with all their hearts. (Paranormal adventure. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38213-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Simply brilliant.

THE CRIMSON CROWN

From the Seven Realms series , Vol. 4

Torture and treasure, treason and trust, and the triumph of true love: All come to fruition in the stirring conclusion to this epic fantasy series.

Raisa ana'Marianna has claimed the Gray Wolf throne, but her grip is tenuous:  Every faction—clans, wizards, army, flatlanders—both within and without the Fells hates all the others, and each pushes Raisa to accept its preferred candidate for consort. Meanwhile, Han Alister has taken his seat on the Wizard Council at the queen's command, but every other member secretly wants to use him or kill him. Furthermore, there are the mysterious murders of wizards, marked with Han's old streetlord sign; all this disarray signals a weakness that encourages invading armies from the South. Together, Han and Raisa seek the long-lost Armory of the Gifted Kings as the only way to avoid re-enacting a 1,000-year-old tragedy; but to wield such a weapon may well trigger an even greater catastrophe. Chima manages to resolve this impossibly tangled skein of politics, intrigue, history, prejudice and passion with style and grace. Grim scenes of shocking violence alternate with moments of tenderness and humor, and the high body count is balanced by the almost fairy-tale–romantic conclusion. While some of the depth and complexities of the supporting characters—along with the nuanced subtleties of their conflicting worldviews—are sacrificed to help demonize (or valorize) their respective positions, nothing can overshadow the cathartic satisfaction for those caught up in this sweeping saga.

Simply brilliant. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4433-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

THE ASSASSIN'S CURSE

A kick-ass pirate heroine gets into and out of (mostly into) trouble in this invigorating fantasy.

Within the first five pages of this debut, Ananna of the Tanarau ditches her wedding, meant to ally her pirate clan to the Hariri. She may escape this unwanted bond, but she finds herself in another, far more powerful one when she saves the life of Naji, the assassin hired by the Hariri to bring her back or kill her. Now magically connected to the scarred blood magician, she attracts the collateral attention of malignant Otherworldly powers. If she wants any chance at a future that includes her own ship—hell, any future at all—she must quest with Naji for a cure to the curse that binds them together. Clarke’s debut harkens back to the best in fantasy/adventure, offering rock-solid worldbuilding, satisfyingly perilous obstacles and a protagonist whose charismatic ’tude goes way beyond spunk. Ananna’s voice grabs readers from the beginning (“I ain’t never been one to trust beautiful people, and Tarrin of the Hariri was the most beautiful man I ever saw”) and doesn’t let go. Her wry, agreeably foulmouthed (“Sure, sirens are a pain in the ass”) narration is equally smart and funny, incorporating both trenchant observations and frankly beautiful phrasing that never misses a step (“I hadn’t even recognized the hope for what it was until it got dragged away from me”). A ripsnorting series opener; may the sequels arrive soon. (Fantasy. 13 & up)  

 

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-908844-01-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Strange Chemistry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

REACHED

From the Matched Trilogy series , Vol. 3

While staying true to the science fiction and romance at the core of Matched (2010) and Crossed (2011), the trilogy’s breathless finale blossoms into a medical thriller too, adding breadth and resonance.

Cassia, Ky and Xander are far apart. Ky unenthusiastically flies air ships for the Rising, an enigmatic organization poised to overturn the Society. The Rising sends Cassia to work from the inside, so she sorts data for the Society, awaits the Rising’s instruction and trades poetry underground. Xander’s a Society medical Official who uses his position to subtly immunize infants against the forced-forgetfulness tablets that the Society regularly gives adults. The three take turns narrating in first-person present, revealing tantalizing information gaps: What does one character wonder while another knows? What do readers not know yet? A plague breaks out, mutates and becomes a pandemic—which aspects were intentional, and on whose part? Poems (Tennyson, Dickinson, Thomas) and a painting (Sargent) figure heavily and beautifully on both symbolic and literal levels. Is the Rising trustworthy? Can a living human also be an archetype? Condie’s prose is immediate and unadorned, with sudden pings of lush lyricism. Her protagonists are no run-of-the-mill romance triangle, her forms of activism (art, medicine) rich. Each character is differently strong and differently wounded. With reveals seeming to arrive on almost every page, prepare to stay up all night. (author’s note referencing poems and paintings) (Science fiction/romance. 13 & up)

 

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-42366-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

AFTER THE SNOW

Debut author Crockett’s poetic first-person narrative depicts an adolescent’s coming-of-age amid wartime havoc and an unforgiving, possibly post-apocalyptic winter.

When Willo’s family vanishes from their wintry cabin, he sets out on his own to find them, leaving his home in the hills for the nearby town, which is undergoing a Nazi-like occupation. The war is a nebulous monster; though Crockett alludes to World War II, she never fully explicates the novel’s time frame, which may frustrate some readers. Willo’s inventive argot is part-urban vernacular and part-forester twang, and though it offers no clues as to setting or time, it conveys exceptional metaphors that evoke nature and the elements. People Willo has trusted betray him in the face of scarce food and the authorities’ hunt for a faceless resistance, but he perseveres, seizing opportunities to earn his bread and doggedly pursuing information about his father. On his journey, he meets a young girl who turns out to possess unexpected significance in the political landscape, figuring even in his own legacy, a thing he discovers in his difficult search. Willo endures cruel brutality, but Crockett renders in him an intense psychological transformation that is authentic to his character and his circumstances, culminating in discovery of his own voice and vision. A sentimental tale of hardships, resilience and first-time experiences that illustrates a universal truism: Hope springs eternal in the young. (Fiction. 12 & up)

 

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-64169-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

Surprising, vivid and cohesive—the work of a pro.

THE GIRL IN THE CLOCKWORK COLLAR

From the Steampunk Chronicles series , Vol. 2

A steampunk adventure in which an omniscient narrator delves into multiple heads and a quartet of friends take lurid risks to save their fifth counterpart.

Fin de siècle London meets New York when Finley, Griffin, Emily and Sam take passage on a dirigible after a local villain, Dalton, absconds with their friend Jasper. Cross (The Girl in the Steel Corset, 2011, etc.) deftly weaves storylines together, fostering each character’s romantic aspirations and nicely complicating them with low social station, part-machine composition or some other hindrance to bliss. The titular girl is Mei, and the collar she wears is one of many newfangled inventions readers can explore. Several others come through the vehicle of supporting cast member Nikola Tesla, whose gadgets come to life with Griffin’s paranormal powers. It is, of course, an uncanny invention that impels Dalton to kidnap and exploit Jasper in the first place, as well as the familiar desire for riches. The juxtaposition of polar-opposite settings—rough-and-tumble Five Points and the opulence of the Waldorf Astoria, for instance—makes for playful diversity among characters and intriguing sources of tension. Cross nails the old dialects of New York, England and Ireland, imbuing her world with texture and authenticity.

Surprising, vivid and cohesive—the work of a pro. (Steampunk. 13 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-373-21053-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

From the gripping first line, a fast-paced, thought-provoking and stirring story of sacrifice.

VESSEL

When a summoning goes awry, Liyana must try to save her people and learn how to live for herself, in this sweeping adventure.

Chosen as a “vessel” to host the Goat Clan’s goddess, Bayla, and abandoned when Bayla doesn’t come, Liyana finds herself alone in the desert. Korbyn, god of the Raven Clan, rescues Liyana and provides her with a purpose: find the four other vessels who are also missing deities. Soon, Liyana and Korbyn pick up stalwart Fennik (horse god Sendar), princess-y Pia (silk goddess Oyri) and angry Raan (scorpion goddess Maara). Besides the desert’s many dangers, the ragtag group faces the massed army of the Crescent Empire, led by a young Emperor and his malicious magician, Mulaf. The tribes need their gods to save them from illness, starvation and drought, but the gods need to possess vessels to work magic—an arrangement whose logic several characters begin to question. Liyana is self-sacrificing but not a saint; stubborn, loyal and curious, she finds new reasons to live even as she faces death. Durst offers a meditation on leadership and power and a vivid story set outside the typical Western European fantasy milieu.

From the gripping first line, a fast-paced, thought-provoking and stirring story of sacrifice. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2376-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

An impressive blend of biography and magical realism.

RADIANT DAYS

A 20th-century teen artist and 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud transcend time and place in this luminous paean to the transformative power of art.

In September 1977, 18-year-old Merle leaves rural Virginia to attend the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C.  Her drawings catch the eye of drawing instructor Clea, who initiates a romantic relationship with Merle. Overwhelmed by the sophisticated urban art scene, Merle drifts out of school. When Clea drops her, a homeless Merle desperately spray-paints her signature sun-eye graffiti across the city until she encounters a mercurial tramp who mystically connects her with the visionary Rimbaud, in the bloom of his artistic powers at age 16. Incredulous over their stunning time travel, Merle and Rimbaud recognize they are kindred spirits who live to create. Hand deftly alternates between Merle’s first-person, past-tense story and a third-person account of Rimbaud during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-1872, laced with excerpts from his poems and letters. Suffused with powerful images of light, this intensely lyrical portrait of two androgynous young artists who magically traverse a century to briefly escape their equally disturbing worlds expands the themes of artistic isolation and passion Hand first introduced in Illyria (2010).   

An impressive blend of biography and magical realism. (author’s notes; select bibliography) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-01135-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest.

SERAPHINA

From the Seraphina series , Vol. 1

In Hartman’s splendid prose debut, humans and dragons—who can take human form but not human feeling—have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years.

The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, anti-dragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina’s voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina’s personal journey; half-human and half-dragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself.

Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest. (cast of characters, glossary) (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86656-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

Part science fiction, part adventure, part mystery, but every bit engrossing; be sure to start the hold list for the sequel

THE OBSIDIAN BLADE

From the Klaatu Diskos series , Vol. 1

Vivid imagination and deft storytelling make for refreshing speculative fiction in this time-travel tale.

Tucker Feye is an ordinary teenage boy, leading an ordinary, near-idyllic small-town American life—but that's before he starts seeing the "disks." Once the mysterious shimmering phenomena appear, Tucker's preacher father vanishes, then returns with a strange teenage girl and without his faith; Tucker's mother loses her sanity, and eventually, both parents disappear. After moving in with his (previously unknown) Uncle Kosh, the really weird stuff starts happening. However, after a riveting opening scene, the narrative seems to slow to a crawl, but the thorough characterization and careful worldbuilding pay off spectacularly once Tucker discovers that the disks are gateways through time and space. Hautman doesn't make things easy for his readers: As Tucker bounces through historical crisis points past and future, short chapters and steadily ratcheting stakes present life-threatening situations and bizarre personages at a dizzying pace (most of them already-familiar characters with new names or under different guises). That this remains intriguing rather than confusing is a credit to the sure-handed plotting and crisp prose, equally adept with flashes of snarky wit and uncomfortable questions of faith, identity and destiny. Less satisfying are the climactic cliffhangers, which reveal that the entire story is but a setup for the rest of the series.

Part science fiction, part adventure, part mystery, but every bit engrossing; be sure to start the hold list for the sequel . (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5403-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Inventive and hilarious, with laugh-out-loud moments on every page.

THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM

From the Hero's Guides series , Vol. 1

Instead of finding Happily Ever After with their princesses, four Princes Charming (Prince Duncan insists they pluralize the noun, not adjective) must team up on a farcical quest to save their kingdoms.

The bards have the story details wrong, and each Prince Charming that rescues a princess actually has a name. Bold, party-crashing Cinderella wants adventure more than sheltered Prince Frederic does. Prince Gustav's pride is still badly damaged from having needed Rapunzel's teary-eyed rescue. Through Sleeping Beauty, Prince Liam learns kissing someone out of enchanted sleep doesn't guarantee compatibility, much to the citizens of both kingdoms' ire. Although she loves wacky Prince Duncan, Snow White needs some solitude. The princes-in-turmoil unite to face ridiculous, dangerous obstacles and another figure underserved by bards' storytelling: Zaubera, the witch from Rapunzel's story. Angered at remaining nameless, she plots to become infamous enough, through ever-escalating evil, that bards will be forced to name her in their stories. The fairy-tale world is tongue-in-cheek but fleshed out, creating its own humor rather than relying on pop-culture references. In this debut, Healy juggles with pitch-perfect accuracy, rendering the princes as goobers with good hearts and individual strengths, keeping them distinct and believable.

Inventive and hilarious, with laugh-out-loud moments on every page. (Fantasy. 8 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-211743-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

Readers will definitely want to have, know or be Maggie’s brothers—but she herself proves to be no slouch when it comes to...

FRIENDS WITH BOYS

Nervous, home-schooled by her absent and much-missed mom and saddled with three adored older brothers—and a ghost—Maggie starts high school.

Largely but not entirely left by her doting upper-grade sibs (who had “first days” of their own) to sink or swim, Maggie starts off in lonely isolation but quickly finds two great friends in Mohawk-wearing, multiply pierced, exuberantly logorrheic classmate Lucy and her quieter (but also Mohawk-topped) brother Alistair. Simmering complications soon reach a boil as Maggie discovers that Alistair and her own oldest brother Daniel have some sort of bad history, and on a more eldritch note, a woman’s ghost that Maggie had occasionally seen in the nearby graveyard takes to floating into her house and right up to her face. Filling monochrome ink-and-wash panels with wonderfully mobile faces, expressively posed bodies, wordless conversations in meaningful glances, funny banter and easy-to-read visual sequences ranging from hilarious to violent, Hicks crafts an upbeat, uncommonly engaging tale rich in humor, suspense, and smart, complex characters.

Readers will definitely want to have, know or be Maggie’s brothers—but she herself proves to be no slouch when it comes to coping with change and taking on challenges. (Graphic fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-556-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

Rich in voice, humor and dazzling imagery, studded with edgy ideas and wildly original, this multicultural mashup—like its...

THE CHAOS

Noted for her fantasy and science fiction for adults, Hopkinson jumps triumphantly to teen literature.

Scotch’s womanly build and mixed heritage (white Jamaican dad, black American mom) made her the target of small-town school bullies. Since moving to Toronto, she’s found friends and status. Now both are threatened by the mysterious sticky black spots on her skin (she hides them under her clothes, but they’re growing). When a giant bubble appears at an open-mic event, Scotch dares her brother, Rich, to touch it. He disappears, a volcano rises from Lake Ontario, and chaos ripples across city and world, transforming reality in ways bizarre and hilarious, benign and malignant. A lesbian folksinger with Tamil roots becomes a purple triangle with an elephant’s trunk; jelly beans grow teeth; buried streams resurface. Scotch searches for Rich across a surreal, sensual cityscape informed by Caribbean and Russian folklore. Although what they represent and where they come from are open to interpretation, the manifestations are real to everyone and must be dealt with. Hopkinson opens her YA debut conventionally but soon finds her own path, creating a unique vocabulary with which to explore and express personal identity in its myriad forms and fluidity. Anything but essentialist, she captures her characters in the act of becoming.

Rich in voice, humor and dazzling imagery, studded with edgy ideas and wildly original, this multicultural mashup—like its heroine—defies categorization. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5488-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

True to this series' winning formula, an enjoyable mix of terror, comedy and romance.

WRAPPED UP IN YOU

From the My Boyfriend Is a Monster series , Vol. 6

When a weird midnight rite in a museum brings a hunky Incan mummy back to life, teenage Staci has a decision to make.

Tall, dark, chiseled and gifted with magical powers to boot, the stranger who introduces himself as Pachacutec, or "Chuck," puts Staci on the horns of a dilemma: Though they have instantly and thoroughly clicked, even he admits that his reanimation is dangerous and unnatural. Furthermore, Staci has a set of erstwhile friends who have been dabbling in magic, and they are so eager to drain the Incan prince of power that they've put a vicious hex on Staci to pressure her into betraying him. Even minor figures are distinguishable characters in Nourigat's monotone ink-and-wash art, and both their emotional tides and the increasingly suspenseful dramatic action are ably conveyed in the small but clear panels. The climactic face-off takes place in the can't-miss setting of an after-hours fair and leaves the would-be witches thoroughly chastened and Chuck still around for romance—plus, there's a closing "interview" in which he reveals that he's actually based on a historical figure.

True to this series' winning formula, an enjoyable mix of terror, comedy and romance. (Graphic paranormal romance. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8225-9425-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Absolutely delectable; if it has more fripperies and furbelows than are strictly speaking necessary, it makes up for that in...

ENCHANTED

Readers who get past the generic title and an off-puttingly generic cover will discover a fabulous fairy-tale mashup that deserves hordes of avid readers.

Sunday Woodcutter is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, living in the shadow of the memory of her eldest brother, Jack Junior, who disappeared on a cursed quest of his own. Sunday’s siblings each have their own fates and secrets. Her sisters range from twins Monday and Tuesday (Tuesday was danced to death) to Friday, who works magic with a needle; among her brothers is Trix, who is a changeling. It is Sunday, however, who becomes fast friends with a talking frog, and it is Sunday’s kiss that frees him—except she doesn’t know. Kontis has deeply and vividly woven just about every fairy-tale character readers might half-remember into the fabric of her story: the beanstalk, the warrior maiden, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and some darker ones, too. She does this so seamlessly, and with such energy and good humor, that readers might miss a few references, caught up instead in Sunday’s cheer and vivacity, or in Grumble-the-Frog/Rumbold-the-Prince’s intense romantic nature (and his longing for his long-dead mother, the queen).

Absolutely delectable; if it has more fripperies and furbelows than are strictly speaking necessary, it makes up for that in the wizardly grace of its storytelling. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-64570-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Soars higher than the arashitora Kristoff writes about; superb.

STORMDANCER

From the Lotus War series , Vol. 1

Debut author Kristoff’s steampunk adventure whisks readers to a Japanese dystopia where some mythological beings still exist, a few people have fantastical gifts, and all people live under tyranny.

Yukiko, 16, has an ability the shogun’s guild would punish with death: She can commune with animals. In a unique society woven from Japanese culture and history and the author’s ingenuity of mechanical invention and disease, living standards are rough; pollution and drug addiction proliferate under the rule of a corrupt shogun who seeks to win an admittedly nebulous war. When he commissions Yukiko’s father to catch an elusive arashitora, a creature part-eagle and part-tiger, Yukiko’s quest to survive becomes more challenging. Failure to find the arashitora means the end for Yukiko and her father. Indeed, death looms around every corner in this third-person adventure, as Yukiko meets defectors, rebels and others too scared to oppose the shogun. The book takes off in earnest when Yukiko meets an arashitora. She can communicate with it, and girl and beast grow through the bond they form in surprising and thoroughly convincing ways. Ultimately the fearsome pair takes on the regime, but not before Yukiko forays into the wilds of love.

Soars higher than the arashitora Kristoff writes about; superb. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00140-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Bracing, powerful, resonant.

THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND

In this spellbinding, intricately layered novel, the Printz Honor winner (Tender Morsels, 2008) puts her unique spin on selkies—haunting, mysterious, seal-human shape-shifters in a world of hardscrabble fishing villages, lonely islands and cold, restless seas.

At the story’s heart is unattractive, abused Misskaella, whose harsh life on Rollrock Island changes when, at age 9, she awakens to powers that include an exhilarating, terrifying connection to the island’s seals. Left largely unguided to develop her gifts, Misskaella grows up unloved, unmarried and feared. A secret joy makes life bearable, but loss soon follows. When she learns to draw forth a beautiful woman from a seal, life changes again. Island men set aside their human wives—girls and matrons who once ridiculed Misskaella—and pay whatever she asks for seal wives. Beautiful, strange, sad, they’re truly loved by the husbands and sons who refuse to see their unhappiness. Earthy, vigorous characters and prose ground the narrative in the world we know, yet its themes are deep as the sea. Daniel, son of a human father and his seal wife, wonders why “whosoever’s pain I thought of, it could not be resolved without paining someone else.” Intentions and actions, cause and effect are untidy and complicated, raising questions that will require generations to answer.

Bracing, powerful, resonant. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86919-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Laugh-out-loud funny, heart-wrenchingly sad and fist-pump-in-the-air triumphant, this sparkling gem proves that vampires,...

TEAM HUMAN

Both lovers and loathers of teen vampire romance will revel in this hilarious satirical take on the genre.

Mel might not exactly have her own life sorted out, but she’s always been there for her BFFs, Cathy and Anna. She indulges Cathy’s passion for history, ruins and old things in general; that is, until Francis Duvarney enrolls in their high school. Vampires may be both dead and deadly, but they are also a legally tolerated minority and even tourist attractions—and Francis, with his mesmerizing good looks and stuffy arrogance, is irresistible to an old-fashioned girl like Cathy. Meanwhile, Anna sees Francis as an unbearable reminder of the collapse of her parents' marriage. Mel knows her duty to both of them: prove that Francis is up to no good, whether the clues lead her into the city's terrifying vampire district, the school's rat-infested basement, or even the arms of a cute guy. While primarily an affectionate parody of the genre, filled with clever allusions and devastating snark, the story also sympathetically illuminates the allure of vampire romance, for characters and readers alike. In an unexpectedly poignant turn, it becomes a celebration of love in all its forms: crushes and spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, families born and created, and above all, friends tested and true.

Laugh-out-loud funny, heart-wrenchingly sad and fist-pump-in-the-air triumphant, this sparkling gem proves that vampires, zombies and even teenagers…at heart, we're all on Team Human. (Fantasy. 12 & up.)

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender.

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EVERY DAY

From the Every Day series , Vol. 1

Imagine waking up in a different body every day.

A is a 16-year-old genderless being who drifts from body to body each day, living the life of a new human host of the same age and similar geographic radius for 24 hours. One morning, A wakes up a girl with a splitting hangover; another day he/she wakes up as a teenage boy so overweight he can barely fit into his car. Straight boys, gay girls, teens of different races, body shapes, sizes and genders make up the catalog of A’s outward appearances, but ultimately A’s spirit—or soul—remains the same. One downside of A’s life is that he/she doesn’t have a family, nor is he/she able to make friends. A tries to interfere as little as possible with the lives of the teenagers until the day he/she meets and falls head over heels in love with Rhiannon, an ethereal girl with a jackass boyfriend. A pursues Rhiannon each day in whatever form he/she wakes up in, and Rhiannon learns to recognize A—not by appearance, but by the way he/she looks at her across the room. The two have much to overcome, and A’s shifting physical appearance is only the beginning. Levithan’s self-conscious, analytical style marries perfectly with the plot. His musings on love, longing and human nature knit seamlessly with A’s journey. Readers will devour his trademark poetic wordplay and cadences that feel as fresh as they were when he wrote Boy Meets Boy (2003).

An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-93188-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

This commingling of comedy, brutality and fantasy evokes a rich alternate universe with a spitfire young woman as its...

THRONE OF GLASS

From the Throne of Glass series , Vol. 1

A teenage assassin, a rebel princess, menacing gargoyles, supernatural portals and a glass castle prove to be as thrilling as they sound.

Being the most feared assassin in Adarlan is a notoriety 17-year-old Celaena considers an honor, even though it has landed her in a slave-labor prison no one has ever survived. A year into her sentence, the Crown Prince offers to sponsor Celaena in a competition with 23 other criminals and murderers that, should she win, will result in her freedom. The only catch? She’ll become the king’s personal assassin for four years, the same dark-hearted king who sentenced her to imprisonment. Woven in the vein of a Tolkien fantasy, Celaena’s world is one where magic is outlawed and power is snatched through greed and genocide. The third-person narrative allows frequent insight into multiple characters (heroes and villains alike) but never fully shifts its focus from the confident yet conflicted Celaena. And though violent combat and whispers of the occult surround her, Celaena is still just a teenager trying to forge her way, giving the story timelessness. She might be in the throes of a bloodthirsty competition, but that doesn’t mean she’s not in turmoil over which tall, dark and handsomely titled man of the royal court should be her boyfriend—and which fancy gown she should wear to a costume party. 

This commingling of comedy, brutality and fantasy evokes a rich alternate universe with a spitfire young woman as its brightest star. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-695-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

This epic has everything readers can ask for: great characters and a truly spectacular plot filled with romance, suspense,...

FROI OF THE EXILES

From the Lumatere Chronicles series , Vol. 2

With this, the second of the Lumatere Chronicles, fans will be delighted to learn more about this fantasy world and their favorite characters from Finnikin of the Rock (2010).

Set three years after Lumatere was freed from the Charynite occupation, the story revolves around Queen Isaboe’s decision to send Froi to assassinate the infamous king of Charyn. Froi, petty thief and former slave from the land of Sarnak, has developed (beyond all expectations) into a skilled fighter, farmer and pupil of history and language. The quick-start plot grabs attention right off, and the steady buildup of tension—fueled by abductions, political machinations, regicide and political chaos—will keep people reading through this long book. Characters, always Marchetta’s strength, grow and develop as the story progresses, while the land of Charyn, portrayed with telling details, cleverly supports the tale’s suspense. An epilogue reveals that there’s much more to come. For fans, this is a must-read; newcomers to Lumatere’s story will dive in with enthusiasm.

This epic has everything readers can ask for: great characters and a truly spectacular plot filled with romance, suspense, friendship and betrayal. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4759-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Proper fantasy, balanced between epic and personal; this promises to be an engrossing series, with intimations of bigger...

SHADOWFELL

From the Shadowfell series , Vol. 1

In an alternate ancient British Isles, an intrepid heroine may save the kingdom from its wicked ruler.

Marillier’s deep knowledge of folklore and the early-medieval period shine through, but never overwhelm, her latest. In Alban, the Good Folk (widely varied, magical creatures) have occasionally intermingled with humans, and as a result, some humans are “canny.” Canny Neryn can see the Good Folk, which may only be the beginning. But tyrannical King Keldec has turned Alban into a realm of fear and hatred where canny folk are killed or used as weapons. Neryn and her father have fled the king’s Enforcers for years, haunted by their village’s massacre. When a mysterious stranger saves Neryn from her father’s drunken gambling and an Enforcer raid, Neryn finds herself journeying toward Shadowfell, the secret rebel enclave she hopes exists. Neryn’s struggles—to exist day to day, to make peace with the tragedies of her past and the uncertainties of her present, and above all, to grasp and even use her own terrible power—ground this tale. The slightest thread of a blossoming relationship winds throughout, while magic imbues everything but feels real; the Good Folk are other, but not, in this carefully detailed world, fantastic.

Proper fantasy, balanced between epic and personal; this promises to be an engrossing series, with intimations of bigger things ahead. (Historical fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86954-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

More! More! (Science fiction. 12 & up)

BE MY ENEMY

From the Everness series , Vol. 2

In this exciting first sequel to outstanding series opener Planesrunner (2011), 14-year-old science whiz Everett Singh continues to outthink his enemies while navigating the multiverse searching for his dad, lost in a parallel universe.

Everett’s enemies multiply in this installment. There's still the marvelously imagined villain Charlotte Villiers, with her impeccable 1940s style and the confidence of genius, but now Everett’s “alter,” Everett M, his double from another parallel-universe Earth, has been made into a cyborg instructed to eliminate Everett. Add to those a new threat: sentient advanced technology gone bad. The quirky crewmates on their rogue airship, especially Sen, the wonderfully original Airish girl with her enjoyably distinctive dialect, keep the conversations lively as they dodge death at every turn. McDonald roots Everett's heroism in his intelligence. Everett knows mathematics, physics and Punjabi cooking. He wins because he outthinks his rivals, not because he’s faster or stronger, like his alter. Stuffed with science, this series has the potential to fascinate young readers as William Sleator’s books did, tackling concepts on the slippery edge of current understanding. Science causes danger, but it’s also the weapon that combats those terrors. Smart, clever and abundantly original, with suspense that grabs your eyeballs, this is real science fiction for all ages.

More! More! (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61614-678-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Pyr/Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Readers will be captivated.

THE BROKEN LANDS

Two teens race against time to thwart the forces of evil in this prequel to The Boneshaker (2010).

The Broken Land is a hotel where much crucial action takes place, but it is also an apt description of the United States in 1877. The Civil War has scarred the country, and Reconstruction has ended. “Folks are angry, still,” orphan Sam is told. “Folks are scared and folks feel like punishing each other, and I don’t think many of ’em are clear about what they’re mad for.” It is also a time of technological marvels like the Brooklyn Bridge, although this particular wonder has come with a price for young Sam. After losing his father to illness brought on by work on the bridge, Sam finds himself working as a cardsharp in Coney Island. He becomes the unlikely ally of Jin, a Chinese girl working with a team to provide fireworks at Broken Land, as they find themselves resisting a figure seeking to establish his own Hell. This seamless blend of fantasy and historical fiction is ripe with rich, gritty detail. Best of all, it is populated by a vast array of unusual characters: Along with Sam and Jin, there's Tom, a former member of the U.S. Colored Troops, and Susannah, a biracial woman who may hold the key to victory.

Readers will be captivated. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73966-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Space battles! Political intrigue! Engineered warriors! Techno-wizardry! Assassins! Pirates! Rebels! Duels! Secrets, lies,...

A CONFUSION OF PRINCES

Exuberant and insightful, this science-fiction bildungsroman grapples with the essential question: "Who am I?"

After 16 years of intensive training and superhuman augmentation, Khemri is ready to take his place as Prince of the mighty intergalactic Empire. Alas, he immediately finds out that his status isn't quite as exalted as he had always thought. To start with, there are tens of millions of Princes, and most of them are out to kill him. Khem must negotiate a deadly maze of military training, priestly recruitment and even Imperial interest, never knowing whom he can trust. He can rely only on himself—and all the mechanical, biological and psionic enhancements that far-future science can provide, until the day even that is stripped from him….From the riveting opening sentence to the final elegiac ruminations, this is rip-roaring space opera in the classic mold. Add a perfect protagonist: Overprivileged, arrogant and not nearly as clever as he thinks, Khemri's first-person narration is also endearingly witty, rueful and infinitely likable. Perhaps his account relies a bit too much on "had I but known" foreshadowing, and the secondary characters are thinly sketched accessories to the hero's personal journey. But the rocket-powered pace and epic worldbuilding (with just the right amount of gee-whiz technobabble) provide an ideal vehicle for what is, at heart, a sweet paean to what it means to be human.

Space battles! Political intrigue! Engineered warriors! Techno-wizardry! Assassins! Pirates! Rebels! Duels! Secrets, lies, sex and True Love!  What more can anybody ask for?  (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-009694-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

From the grief-stricken shell of her former self to a nascent refugee and finally to a full-fledged resistance fighter,...

PANDEMONIUM

It’s been six months since readers first met 17-year-old Lena Haloway, desperately in love in a world that considers such feelings an infection to be permanently and irrevocably “cured.”

This much-anticipated sequel to Delirium (2011) picks up right where the first novel left off, with Lena and Alex’s only partially successful attempt to escape to “the Wilds.” Lena, alone, heartbroken and near death, must reach deep within herself to find the strength and the will to survive. “Step by step—and then, inch by inch,” she is reborn. The story of Lena’s new life as a rebel Invalid, determined to honor the memory of Alex by fighting for a world in which love is no longer considered a capital offense, is told through a series of flashbacks and present-day accounts that will leave readers breathless. The stakes only get higher when Lena realizes she has feelings for someone new. The novel’s success can be attributed to its near–pitch-perfect combination of action and suspense, coupled with the subtler but equally gripping evolution of Lena’s character.

From the grief-stricken shell of her former self to a nascent refugee and finally to a full-fledged resistance fighter, Lena’s strength and the complexity of her internal struggles will keep readers up at night. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-197806-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

This smart, stylish series opener raises the bar for paranormal fiction, leaving readers impatient for the next installment.

BURN MARK

Crime noir meets paranormal romance in this addictive thriller about two London teens in whom the fae awakens, conferring abilities at once exhilarating and harshly stigmatized.

Glory exults in her strong powers, although Auntie Angel warns her to hide them from the organized-crime covens ruling their hardscrabble neighborhood; otherwise, she could be forced to marry Wednesday Coven–heir Troy Morgan. (Powerful witches are rare, and the gift runs in families.) To Lucas, whose ancestry includes England’s most distinguished inquisitors, his awakening fae feels like a door slamming on his future and his father’s career as Chief Prosecutor of the Inquisitorial Court. Asked to investigate who’s sabotaging an important legal case, Lucas jumps at the chance, working with a skeptical Glory. In this alternative contemporary England, witches have achieved some rights and can even have careers, provided they’re “bridled” (fitted with magic-preventing iron). Still, stake burning remains legal, though regulated; growing popular movements advocate witch genocide. Political intrigue and class warfare, inquisitorial office and coven politics are densely detailed without overwhelming the characters or slowing the pace as the narrative builds to a tense climax so cinematic that readers will find themselves mentally casting the film version.

This smart, stylish series opener raises the bar for paranormal fiction, leaving readers impatient for the next installment. (author’s note) (Urban fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-843-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Setting and plot are the heart and soul of this ripping space thriller, and they’re unforgettable.

A MILLION SUNS

From the Across the Universe series , Vol. 2

Opening soon after the bleak ending of Across the Universe (2011), this captivating middle volume takes Godspeed’s 2,763 residents through commotion, twists and game-changers.

Sixteen-year-old Elder (he refuses the title Eldest, despite being the ship’s leader now) learned in the trilogy opener that Godspeed’s weakened engine offers no chance of planet-landing for many decades. But Elder’s been studying physics, and he’s newly skeptical. Confronting the Shippers who physically run Godspeed begins a string of surprising reveals and so does a set of clues left by a cryogenically frozen rebel. Among this population that’s been shipborn for generations, Earthborn Amy sticks out like a sore thumb (in race-coded ways that are troubling when examined closely). Amy wants off the 10 square miles of this metal-walled spaceship. The environment (levels; elevators; fields under a solar lamp; crammed stacks of city buildings) gives the plot (food hoarding, rape, riots, revolution) an acute tension. Amy and Elder alternate narrating in first person. Their voices aren’t distinct, their actions and characterizations frustrating in many ways, but it hardly matters: Revis’ shining brilliance is the fierce tension about survival (is Godspeed deteriorating? can people survive terrorism inside an enclosed spaceship?) and the desperate core question of whether any generation will ever reach a planet.

Setting and plot are the heart and soul of this ripping space thriller, and they’re unforgettable. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59514-398-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Infused with an urgent hope, this glimmering love story exhilarates and refreshes.

THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS

Her name—Frenenqer—means "restraint" in "some language or other," and she is the only child—creation, really—of a man for whom affection is unspeakable: Pfft.

Expatriates, Frenenqer and her parents have lived many places but called none of them home. The teen’s world now is comprised of three boxes: her family's apartment, her school and the car that takes her from one to the other within the dusty, isolated oasis. When, much to her father's displeasure, Frenenqer rescues a large cat she finds caged in the souk, she liberates a "Free person," a shape-shifting being "born without rules." His are the wings she "borrows" when he nightly takes her in his arms and flies her around the world and into the realms of the Free people. With Sangris, Frenenqer feels free for the first time in her life—but can freedom accommodate love? Rossetti’s lush language is highly metaphorical and often sensuous, befitting the unfurling of Frenenqer’s stunted soul: "And when I came back up the air was still fresh and calm-smelling,…and the palm trees rustled in faint applause." Her earthy, often funny exchanges with Sangris represent freedom for both Frenenqer and readers from her cold, controlling father, whose "words have a way of shaping the world around him."

Infused with an urgent hope, this glimmering love story exhilarates and refreshes. (Magical realism. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3566-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Brilliant and remarkably unsettling.

PASSENGER

The menacing, post-apocalyptic world of Marbury is again richly imagined in this stunning sequel to The Marbury Lens (2010).

Four boys at the heart of the first novel return for another harrowing journey. Jack, whose abduction and near-rape was the catalyst that brought about his descent into Marbury, his best friend, Conner, and Ben and Griffin, two boys they first encountered in the alternate world, begin by attempting to destroy the lens that clutches Jack in its grip, compelling him to return repeatedly to the horrific world of cannibals, monsters and death. When they smash it, they inadvertently create a schism between dimensions—their hometown of Glenbrook becomes a terrifying mirror of Marbury with many variations in between—making escape nearly impossible. As in the first, readers will not be sure what is real, what is nightmare, what may be metaphor. Smith has created a fantastically effective, sinister setting and imbued it with characters that are loyal and decent, even at their most desperate. Unrelentingly harsh in tone and language (“Fuck this…I’ll show you who he is. We’ll fucking go kill him. I’ll bring back his fucking head”), this will be devoured by fans of the first, despite the fact that it offers few clear answers, right to the surprisingly gentle and wise conclusion.

Brilliant and remarkably unsettling. (Horror/fantasy. 16 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00487-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

The magic is entirely pragmatic; the impossible, extraordinarily true.

THE RAVEN BOYS

From the Raven Cycle series , Vol. 1

An ancient Welsh king may be buried in the Virginia countryside; three privileged boys hope to disinter him.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Blue Sargent, daughter of a small-town psychic, has lived her whole life under a prophecy: If she kisses her true love, he will die. Not that she plans on kissing anyone. Blue isn't psychic, but she enhances the extrasensory power of anyone she's near; while helping her aunt visualize the souls of people soon to die, she sees a vision of a dying Raven boy named Gansey. The Raven Boys—students at Aglionby, a nearby prep school, so-called because of the ravens on their school crest—soon encounter Blue in person. From then on, the point of view shifts among Blue; Gansey, a trust-fund kid obsessed with finding King Glendower buried on a ley-line in Virginia; and Adam, a scholarship student obsessed with his own self-sufficiency. Add Ronan, whose violent insouciance comes from seeing his father die, and Noah, whose first words in the book are, "I've been dead for seven years," and you've got a story very few writers could dream up and only Stiefvater could make so palpably real. Simultaneously complex and simple, compulsively readable, marvelously wrought. The only flaw is that this is Book 1; it may be months yet before Book 2 comes out.

The magic is entirely pragmatic; the impossible, extraordinarily true. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-42492-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Heartless September sprouts a heart during this remarkable, awesome journey.

THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE

From the Fairyland series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011), heroine September embarks on another quest, this time to Fairyland-Below, where her shadow rules as queen.

It’s been a year since September saved Fairyland after sacrificing her shadow and returned home to Nebraska, where she carries the secret of her adventure “with her like a pair of rich gloves which...she could take out and slip” on. On her 13th birthday, September chases a peculiar boat across the wheat fields and falls into Fairyland-Below, a dark region without rules. There, everything’s “upside down and slantwise,” shadows are siphoned from Fairyland and September’s shadow, Halloween, orchestrates wild nightly revels. September resolutely pledges to recover all missing shadows, including her own, by traveling to the very bottom of Fairyland to awaken the Sleeping Prince. Her deliberate descent into dark, surreal places where she encounters bizarre, fantastical creatures is chronicled by the perceptive narrator whose familiarity with fairy-tale tradition matches September’s self-conscious determination to behave “as a heroine.” Sophisticated, prodigious blending of familiar and original storytelling elements adds multilayered texture, while the rich prose oozes exotic, imaginative imagery. Juan's black-and-white spot art highlights September’s questing.

Heartless September sprouts a heart during this remarkable, awesome journey. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-64962-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

This cracking good mixture of magic and place will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel

DUST GIRL

From the American Fairy Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A mixed-race girl in Dust Bowl Kansas discovers her long-lost father isn't just a black man: He's a fairy.

Callie has been passing as white her whole life, helping her Mama in run-down Slow Run, Kan. But now it doesn't seem to matter that she keeps her "good skin" out of the sun and softens her "coarse" hair, because it seems everyone's left the dust-choked town. Even Mama is gone now, vanished in a preternatural dust storm that summoned a strange man who tells Callie secrets of her never-met father. Soon Callie's walking the dusty roads with Jack, a ragged white kid. If Callie's dad is a fairy, then the two young'uns will just have to go to fairyland to find him. Callie and Jack dodge fairy politics and dangers, from grasshopper people to enchanted food to magic movie theaters—but the conventional dangers are no less threatening. Plenty of run-of-the-mill humans in 1935 Kansas don't like black girls or beggars, hobos or outsiders. With a historical note and a Woody Guthrie soundtrack, this novel does a fine job of blending a splendidly grounded Dust Bowl setting with a paranormal adventure. It's really too bad that the cover art depicts a white girl with flyaway hair, rather than Callie as written, a mixed girl who stops passing as white halfway through the story. Callie learns to be open about herself but her own cover art doesn't. 

This cracking good mixture of magic and place will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel . (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86938-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Devastating and heartbreaking, this will be a disappointment for readers looking for a conventional happy ending. But those...

BITTERBLUE

From the Graceling Realm series , Vol. 3

Building on the plots and themes of the award-winning Graceling (2008) and its companion Fire (2009), this rich and poignant fantasy grapples with the messy aftermath of destroying an evil overlord.

Nine years after Bitterblue took the crown, the young queen and her realm are still struggling to come to terms with the monstrous legacy of her father, the insane, mind-controlling Leck. How can she "look forward," as her advisors urge, when she cannot trust her memories of the past? Sneaking out of her castle, Bitterblue discovers that her people have not healed as much as she has been told. While "truthseekers" are determined to restore what Leck destroyed, others are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden. Gorgeous, textured prose is filled with images of strange beauty and restrained horror. It propels an intricate narrative dense with subplots and rich in characters familiar and new. Weaving them together are all the lies: conspiracies and ciphers, fakes and false testimony, spies and thieves, disguises and deceptions, mazes and puzzles. They are lies spun from greed, shame, strategy, fear, duty—even kindness. And it is Bitterblue who, trapped in this net of deceit, must draw upon all her courage, cleverness and ferocious compassion to reveal the truth—and to care for those it shatters.

Devastating and heartbreaking, this will be a disappointment for readers looking for a conventional happy ending. But those willing to take the risk will—like Bitterblue—achieve something even more precious: a hopeful beginning. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3473-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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