Readers who prefer layered characters over racing plot should seek out the more subtle works of Judy Blundell or Kathryn...

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VIOLINS OF AUTUMN

An American teenager becomes an Allied spy for the French Resistance during World War II in this briskly paced historical to novel.

Seventeen-year-old Betty Sweeney, aka Adele Blanchard, is thrilled to abandon the staid safety of her European boarding school after she is approached by dashing SOE (Special Operations Executive) agents looking for unassuming young women to serve as spies behind enemy lines in France. “All I have to do is drop into a foreign country, aid and train members of the ever-growing Resistance movement, sabotage railways, travel the country on a bicycle while concealing top-secret information, blow things up, and try not to get killed.” At the end of every cliffhanging chapter, intrepid Adele finds herself in a different do-or-die situation, whether it’s unobtrusively trying to carry her bicycle through rough water under an enemy-occupied bridge or leading a German soldier to certain death in the labyrinthine Paris sewers. She is also caught in a love triangle between French farmer-turned-fighter Pierre and downed American pilot Robbie, one of whom is not destined to live to see the end of the war. The fast pace, well-realized setting and fascinating espionage details help make up for the stereotypical characterizations and stiff dialogue.

Readers who prefer layered characters over racing plot should seek out the more subtle works of Judy Blundell or Kathryn Miller Haines. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-2299-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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