Despite an inconsistent narrative style, an entertaining and imaginative fantasy inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.

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CAULDRON'S BUBBLE

A bizarre object transports a teenager from the late 19th century to a world of Shakespearean magic and mystery in this debut YA novel.

Guided by a clue left by her grandmother, 14-year-old Alda finds a small, bubblelike object that shockingly transfers her from her 19th-century cottage to a pirate ship at sea. Her sudden appearance startles cabin boy Dreng, whom she will meet again in this Shakespearean fantasy that is woven from an atmospheric patchwork of elements from Hamlet (the Danish prince has a cameo as a prisoner on the pirate ship), Macbeth, and, especially, The Tempest. During an encounter with three bony, cackling figures on a fog-shrouded moor, Alda learns that the magical item that has brought her there is called a “cauldron’s bubble” (and that her grandmother may have been a member of this “wayward and weird” witches’ coven). Time shifts as Alda’s multiple strange journeys take her back to her own childhood, to a talking raven in a desolate desert canyon, to Dreng’s storm-tossed ship, and to a “between worlds” place called Netherfeld, where she ages two years with only gradually surfacing memories of what happens there. Thanks to witchy trickery, Alda ends up trapped on the haunted island where the lethal spirits are controlled by Prospero’s enslaved Ariel (depicted as a harpy of mythology). There, Alda’s fate becomes cleverly intertwined with naiads and dryads, a shipwrecked and now grown-up Dreng (who meets the ghost of his murdered father), the malformed and hapless Caliban, and a disturbingly proactive Miranda. Elby intermittently sustains a Bard-like sensibility in this overloaded but inventive story through an informed sprinkling of paraphrased and near quotes from Shakespeare’s plays, occasional puns, brief soliloquies, portentous scenes, and blank verse rhythms. (The witches: “Who is the girl?” / “Not who, what?”/ “A bearer?”/ “A sister?” / “A knower or a seer?”) The ending of this enjoyable tale, the first installment of a trilogy, skillfully telegraphs more mystery and adventures to come. In the upcoming Book 2 (Double, Double Toil), Alda’s odyssey of self-discovery will continue (along with Elby’s mining of further Shakespeare classics). 

Despite an inconsistent narrative style, an entertaining and imaginative fantasy inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-974404-70-4

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Verdopolis Press

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2018

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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