Two reveals plus the lie’s exposure surprisingly lead to relief for Sanskrit’s soul; hopefully moral growth follows.

SINCE YOU LEFT ME

Funny and glum, neglected yet self-serving, Sanskrit Aaron Zuckerman (“that’s my name, in all its confusing glory”) trudges through junior year with a large, stupid lie on his shoulders.

Sanskrit’s accustomed to his mother’s emotional absence; she’s preoccupied with yoga and named him after the ancient Indian language, revealing hippie leanings that match neither his lethargic atheism nor his school’s Modern Orthodox Judaism. When Mom garners schoolwide attention by missing a parent-teacher conference, Sanskrit announces she’s been in a near-fatal accident. The outpouring of sympathy, especially from a girl he’s adored since age 7, is like manna. Judi spurned him in second grade, and he’s still obsessed with that rejection. His parents are divorced, inattentive and flaky; old friend Herschel is more religious and moral than Sanskrit can bear; and Sanskrit’s late, Holocaust-survivor grandfather left him funding for Jewish education only (otherwise the money goes to Tay-Sachs research), forcing Sanskrit into Jewish school. His loneliness and his anxiety about the pressures attendant on being the descendent of a survivor are understandable, and sometimes he’s hilarious (“Can breasts look disappointed?”), but his self-centeredness is repugnant (in addition to the lie, he bets on teachers’ heart attacks). India is used for “exotic” textual flavor with a reductionist American slant: Chai, for instance, is “the taste of India.”

Two reveals plus the lie’s exposure surprisingly lead to relief for Sanskrit’s soul; hopefully moral growth follows. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60684-296-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.

COLD HEARTED

A TALE OF THE WICKED STEPMOTHER

From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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