Deftly explores poignant questions about the nature of loyalty in desperate circumstances.

TRAITOR

A NOVEL OF WORLD WAR II

During World War II, two young men find themselves caught in the crosshairs of various factions in the occupied Galician city known to Poles as Lwów and to Ukrainians as L’viv.

Seventeen-year-old Tolya is a half Polish/half Ukrainian sniper in the Soviet Army stationed in the contested territory, where he must keep his Polish heritage a secret or risk his life. Aleksey is a charismatic Ukrainian nationalist whose father was a celebrated freedom fighter. The narrative jumps back and forth between Tolya in 1944, following the Soviet liberation of the city from Germany, and Aleksey three years earlier, with German forces poised to invade the city following the Soviets’ initial retreat. Their paths cross in 1944 when, in a split-second decision, Tolya shoots his unit’s political officer and Aleksey’s squad of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army rescues him at the behest of a mysterious informer within the Soviet ranks. Following a subsequent betrayal within his own squad, Aleksey goes on the run with Tolya, setting up a complex plot full of double crosses and unexpected alliances. The narrative’s nonlinear structure is effective at building suspense and garnering sympathy for its protagonists, though some confusion over who is fighting whom is warranted in this complicated slice of history that does not shy away from depicting scenes of violence and torture.

Deftly explores poignant questions about the nature of loyalty in desperate circumstances. (historical note, map, list of military and paramilitary forces, list of characters, author's note) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31352-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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