Ambitious, heartbreaking, and out-of-this-world awesome

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ILLUMINAE

From the Illuminae Files series , Vol. 1

In the wake of an interstellar incident, a post-mortem dossier comprising interview transcripts, memos, instant-messaging transcripts, diary entries, and more is assembled in this mammoth series opener.

Teenage colonists and exes Kady’s and Ezra’s lives are rocked by the 2575 assault on the Wallace/Ulyanov Consortium’s illegal mining colony by their corporate rival, BeiTech Industries. They are among the lucky ones who manage to evacuate—Kady to the science vessel Hypatia and Ezra to the United Terran Authority’s battlecarrier Alexander. The latter escorts both Hypatia and the freighter Copernicus in a monthslong race to safety while pursued by a BeiTech dreadnought, one likely to win should the ships engage again. Ezra’s recruited as a fighter pilot. Kady avoids conscription by flunking tests and highlighting her defiant personality, which allows her freedom to hack the ships. What she discovers disturbs her and leads her to communicate with Ezra again—both for more information and because of their unfinished business. The two teenagers—a focus of the dossier due to their sleuthing—share and uncover disturbing information about an incident with Copernicus, the damage sustained by Alexander’s artificial intelligence system, and a terrifying virus. The design’s creative visuals take advantage of the nontraditional format, which gracefully juggles document types, foreshadowing, clues, voices, and characters. As the characters’ time runs out, the story ambushes readers with surprises. The account completes the incident’s history but not its fallout.

Ambitious, heartbreaking, and out-of-this-world awesome . (Science fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0553-49911-7

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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