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Raw, incisive, and authentic.

A 12-year-old Black girl deals with fear, grief, pain, and suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and America’s history of enslavement and racist violence.

It’s the year 2111, and Inmate Eleven is undergoing a test. She must decide which is better: the blond, blue-eyed, light-skinned doll or the doll with blue skin and hair like her own. Inmate Eleven’s world is cruel and fractured: As a Blue, she’s separated from the pale-skinned Clones and has been isolated in a cell her whole life. Her only source of comfort is her dog, Ira; they both long for escape. “Bible Boot” flash cards fill in the backstory through references to an alternate but recognizable history: a 2016 election, xenophobia, a wall, a worldwide virus, and vaccines. Blues are regarded as inferior, their bodies exploited to prolong the lives of Clones; they are actually Black Americans whose stolen freedom has caused them to turn blue with sadness. Back in 2022, Imogen is trapped by fear and grief from racist violence and devastating pandemic losses. She finds relief and healing through sharing her stories and builds relationships with Black role models like her therapist and her mentor from the Big Sister program. Textbook pages at the ends of chapters share true Black history. McBride’s multidimensional genius shines through, artfully exposing the reality that Black Americans have lived lifetimes of dystopias. She scrupulously guides the complicated storyline and hard histories with context, definitions, and word choices.

Raw, incisive, and authentic. (author’s note) (Fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781250850492

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Intertwined spectral and real worlds deliver double the thrills.

Leaving his actual body behind in prison, Smoke can move through the world as a ghost in this fantastic yet real portrait of a survivor seeking answers.

John “Smoke” Conlan has survived a brutal beating from his father, a murder conviction, and prison life. His uncanny ability evidently triggered by the beating, Smoke exists inside and outside the fictional Greater Denver Youth Offender Rehabilitation Center (unrealistically represented as a maximum security prison). Smoke keeps his physical body protected on the inside thanks to the balance of favors earned outside his body. On one such errand, he discovers that a young waitress at a seedy dive can actually see him. Smoke’s vivid present-tense narration is filtered according to his concerns. He insists that he is innocent of killing his favorite teacher but guilty of killing a fellow student in self-defense, keeping readers teetering between a belief that the punishment is justified and cheering Smoke on to fight for freedom. The narrative’s romance is chaste, and it tempers the intensity brought to the story by the threats of guards, fellow inmates, and outside criminals. Though the complex plot is based on an impossible premise, readers will be flipping the pages, watching the diverse cast (Smoke is white) race toward the climax.

Intertwined spectral and real worlds deliver double the thrills. (Paranormal suspense. 11-16)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2597-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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