In this cynical coming-of-age debut, this summer has to be the hardest. She is stuck at her grandmother’s house because she...

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AND THEN THINGS FALL APART

Life is “sofa king” hard that 15-year-old Keek has developed an addiction to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

In this cynical coming-of-age debut, this summer has to be the hardest. She is stuck at her grandmother’s house because she has the chicken pox, her father cheated with a waitress from their family restaurant and her mother has left to support her sister’s premature baby. In desperation, Keek turns to her grandmother’s typewriter to write poetry and record recent events. She can’t help but notice her similarities to Esther Greenwood, The Bell Jar’s main protagonist. In her conversational first-person account, which often sounds more mature than most 15-year-olds but always gets the feelings right, Keek expounds upon the breakup of her family and her obsession with her virginity and when to lose it. Those who have read The Bell Jar will appreciate such other Esther-like details as Keek’s unsympathetic mother, her nurturing grandmother (who suffered a nervous breakdown and shock treatments in the past), her wrestler boyfriend (who not only doesn’t appreciate her poetry but has betrayed her by sleeping with someone else) and seeing his penis for the first time. Also like Esther, Keek blends serious subject matter with sarcastic humor and claims her “I am” mantra to begin the healing process and take charge of her future.

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1323-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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