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BLANCA & ROJA

McLemore’s poignant retelling is a must-read for fans of fantasy and fairy tales.

Sisters Blanca and Roja attempt to escape their family curse in this mashup of “Snow-White and Rose-Red” and Swan Lake.

As long as anyone in the Latinx del Cisne (“of the swans”) family can remember, there have always been two daughters: One is destined to be transformed into a swan shortly after the younger sister’s 15th birthday, while the other is left behind to live as a human. Fiery, darker-skinned, redheaded 15-year-old Roja has always believed she’s the one the swans will claim, while kind, fair-skinned, golden-haired, 17-year-old Blanca has always promised Roja they would do everything to fight the curse. Despite being considered opposites, the sisters share a seemingly unbreakable bond that’s tested when two missing local high school boys reappear in the woods near their home as a cygnet and a bear. White best friends Yearling, a boy from a rich but toxic family, and Page, a trans boy whose family are apple farmers, hide in the del Cisne home after returning to their human bodies. As love blossoms between the sisters and the best friends, they attempt to avoid a heartbreaking destiny. As with her other stories, McLemore (Wild Beauty, 2017, etc.) weaves in powerful themes of identity, family, and first love, but there are also much-needed messages about overcoming hurtful stereotypes and expectations.

McLemore’s poignant retelling is a must-read for fans of fantasy and fairy tales. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-16271-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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