Fun but ultimately unremarkable.

RENEGADE

From the Elemental series , Vol. 3

The action-packed conclusion to the dystopic alt-history trilogy.

Readers are plunged directly into the middle of the action in this final installment of the middle-of-the-road series that began with Elemental (2012). Sixteen-year-old Thomas and his band of fellow elementals—Alice, Rose, Griffin and the others—escape by the skin of their teeth from an infestation of plague-ridden rats and an invasion by enemy pirates one week after they set sail to return home to Roanoke Island from a failed mission in Sumter, South Carolina. Sparks continue to fly between Thom and Alice as he discovers more about his own element and its strange powers. Meanwhile, their archenemy, the pirate Dare, follows them back to their home on Roanoke. John’s history and mapping skills can get confusing, especially when he weaves in actual historical figures and places. Still, readers who have made it this far will be relieved to discover that he spends much of the latter half of the novel explaining the convoluted mysteries and secrets that have no doubt continued to intrigue them throughout the trilogy. Even after the final reveal, however, the mythology of John’s universe still feels a little shaky, but that won’t stop readers from devouring page upon page of hangings, thousands of hungry, angry rats, betrayals and more.

Fun but ultimately unremarkable. (Post-apocalyptic historical adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3685-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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