Droll and diverting; fine characters to follow through time.

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LIGHT RIDERS AND THE MORENCI MINE MURDER

Goldfarb’s (The Last Tag, 2012, etc.) young-adult adventure takes time-traveling siblings from modern times to a murder mystery in 1930 Arizona.

Ryn and his little sister, Aeden, squander their summer vacation helping clean out their late great-Auntie Zanne’s house. The two find an old box, marked with their names, that contains prisms and cryptic notes. The prisms, if arranged a certain way, can bend time, which the siblings confirm by landing decades in the past. But they don’t arrive together—Aeden finds an ally, and Ryn is caught up with a gang. As Ryn searches for his sister, everyone else looks for gold, and some are willing to kill for it. Goldfarb’s novel ceaselessly regales, enriched by two resilient and charismatic main characters. Most chapters alternate between Ryn’s and Aeden’s first-person perspectives, a technique that prolongs the suspense as the siblings spend most of the story apart. Some chapters present points of view from characters introduced along the way, including a murderer who wants a payout in gold. The siblings’ relationship is initially belligerent as they grumble over chores, but it progressively matures. Their love and respect for each other is more apparent when they’re separated. The humor is modest but shrewd. Few understand Ryn’s name; one person believes it’s short for Rendell and another finds it easier to call him Rin Tin Tin. And the kids-out-of-time jokes never sidetrack the narrative; people mock Ryn both for his sneakers (“fancy-dancy New York shoes”) and because he suggests rubbing two pieces of wood to start a fire, not realizing that matches are readily available. Goldfarb smartly keeps the time traveling at a minimum to subvert any skepticism. Perhaps the author’s greatest feat is an effective multigenre approach of murder mystery, horror, sci-fi, and Ryn’s trekking via horseback even recalls a Western.

Droll and diverting; fine characters to follow through time.

Pub Date: April 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475084948

Page Count: 310

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2012

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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