A magical exploration of queer and religious themes.

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THE FASCINATORS

Spellcasting gets extracurricular at a Georgia high school.

Seniors Sam, Delia, and James are the three (and only) members of the Friedman High Fascinators, their school’s magic club. The trio hopes to do well at their last magic competition before college, but the “infinite question marks” surrounding Sam and James’ feelings for each other are nothing if not distracting. Rather than talk it out, James keeps partying and spending time with Amber, a girl from his church. Meanwhile, the club recruits new-to-town Denver, a boy who seems keen on Sam. When James steals a spell book at a party, a group of dark magic practitioners haunts the Fascinators until they return it. But even if they give it back, will their lives be the same? Eliopulos, an editor at HarperCollins, makes his YA debut with a strong, queercentric premise. The tight, third-person–omniscient focus on Sam offers a contagious flair for the dramatic. Though light on the specificities and rules of magic, Eliopulos draws powerful parallels between queerness and magical ability in a Deep South where the fear of both is present but not prevailing. However, with all the crescendo of the promising premise, the ending tumbles toward anticlimactic. Multiple unanswered questions hint at a potential sequel. The cast assumes a white default, though black-haired Amber has dark brown skin and other character names code for diversity.

A magical exploration of queer and religious themes. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288804-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A lackluster take on a well-worn trope.

THE TWIN

After a family tragedy, 16-year-old Ivy Mason hopes to reconnect with her aloof identical twin sister, Iris—but Iris has other plans.

When Ivy’s parents divorced 10 years ago, Ivy stayed with her father while Iris went to live with their mother. When their mother dies after falling off a bridge while jogging, Iris comes to live with Ivy and their father. Narrator Ivy is reeling (she even goes to therapy), but Iris seems strangely detached, only coming to life when Ivy introduces her to her best friends, Haley and Sophie, and her quarterback boyfriend, Ty. However, Ivy isn’t thrilled when Iris wants to change her class schedule to match hers, and it’s not long before Iris befriends Ivy’s besties and even makes plans with them that don’t include Ivy. Iris even joins the swim team where Ivy is a star swimmer. As Iris’ strange behavior escalates, Ivy starts to suspect that their mother’s death might not have been an accident. Is Iris up to no good, or is Ivy just paranoid? In the end, readers may not care. There are few surprises to be found in a narrative populated by paper-thin characters stuck fast in a derivative plot. Even a jarring final twist can’t save this one. Most characters seem to be white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters.

A lackluster take on a well-worn trope. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12496-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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