The gorgeous cover, highly original premise, and dramatic climax can’t make up for tedious pacing and a muddled message.

INK

From the Skin series , Vol. 1

“Watch out for the blanks.”

Sixteen-year-old Leora takes her father’s dying words as a warning against those who refuse the sacred obligation to record every deed as observable tattoos, eventually to be bound and reverently preserved by their descendants. So the discrepancies between her father’s own “skin book” and her memories shake all of Leora’s comfortable assumptions. Broadway presents an intriguing dystopian conceit: an apparently benevolent society, completely transparent, valuing persons of every color equally (although it’s considered “lucky” and “refined” to be “pale” like Leora)—yet also riddled with bigotry, paranoia, and hypocrisy. Still, some of the ambiguities are just confusing: are the “blanks” individuals who are exercising free choice or an entirely separate race? Is Leora responsible for her own decisions, or is she a special, predestined savior? Leora’s present-tense narration slowly dribbles out trickles of plot amid torrents of mind-numbing exposition, studded with portentous dreams and twists on traditional folk tales. While her voice—naïve, vacillating, and constantly self-deprecating—can be irritating, it’s far less frustrating than the overused device in which characters inexcusably conceal vital information in order to drive events. As these deceptions finally crumble, Leora is provoked into a series of rash choices, culminating in a flamboyant gesture rejecting her entire social order…and neatly setting up a sequel.

The gorgeous cover, highly original premise, and dramatic climax can’t make up for tedious pacing and a muddled message. (Fantasy. 11-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-19699-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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