Formulaic but fun, which makes all the difference.

IF I SHOULD DIE

From the Die for Me series , Vol. 3

The Die for Me series about an American teenager involved with undead revenants in Paris concludes.

Courageous, loyal Kate mourns not the death, which is a normal occurrence for revenants, but the cremation of her undead boyfriend, Vincent, at the hands of Violette, leader of the evil numa. Vincent can’t come back to life if his body no longer exists. Luckily, Kate and Bran, the revenants’ healer assistant, unearth a ceremony that might restore him but only if they also can find the ancient, lost equipment necessary. With or without Vincent, the book continues with preparation for battle, then actual battle, with plenty of well-paced tension. Appropriately spaced romantic interludes provide variety. The major plot point is the identity of a prophesied champion, destined to win the battle between good and evil, at least in Paris, for now, and of course, the heroine faces the usual insurmountable odds. Fortunately, this series doesn’t take itself completely seriously. Plum includes fairly frequent tongue-in-cheek humor lampooning her own plot—“my safety was at risk because of an evil undead medieval teenager”—which helps lift the book above standard undead fare. Yes, it’s the usual mishmash of romance and the supernatural, but the author keeps the narrative moving along at a sprightly pace and handles the suspense well.

Formulaic but fun, which makes all the difference. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-200403-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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