An enthralling dive into trauma, mental health, and mother-daughter relationships.

THE SALT IN OUR BLOOD

Plagued by dreams and strange visitors linked to a tarot deck, Cat tries to uncover her mentally ill mother’s secrets.

Cat’s lived with Moony, her maternal grandmother, since her mother, Mary, dropped her off at age 7 with a secret deck of tarot cards. Ten years later, Moony’s death brings estranged Mary back into Cat’s life; she relocates her daughter from Moony’s small Louisiana town to New Orleans, where she works as a tarot reader in the French Quarter. Mary’s severe bipolar disorder has hurt Cat deeply in the past and is depicted in painful, no-holds-barred details. Cat worries about her own sanity, knowing the disease’s genetic component—and because she’s haunted by people resembling the figures from the tarot deck both in dreams and, sometimes, on the streets of New Orleans. With the help of Daniel, her handsome love interest, Cat seeks answers about the people she’s seeing and the inciting trauma that triggered Mary’s illness. She finds far more than she bargained for, learning about old family secrets and devastating crimes and tragedies that her mother survived. The discoveries are well paced, the setting enchanting. Cat, Mary, and Moony are painted as complex characters caught in a complicated dynamic; their believability anchors the otherworldly elements and provides emotional weight to the stakes and resolution. Cat and her family are White; Daniel is a multiethnic Black boy.

An enthralling dive into trauma, mental health, and mother-daughter relationships. (author's note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7227-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AW Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Spooky, atmospheric, and layered.

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON

Eleventh grader Jake Livingston fights for survival when the ghost of a school shooter starts to haunt him.

Besides dealing with being the only Black kid in his grade, Jake also must contend with the ghosts he sees every day. Remnants of the “dead world” envelop every aspect of his waking life, ghosts distract him in school, he astral projects at night, and now he’s the target of a particularly incensed spirit. Sawyer Doon, a White boy who committed a mass shooting at a neighboring high school, has set his sights on Jake, seeking to possess his body and commit more atrocities from beyond the grave. Newfound friends Fiona Chan and Allister Burroughs, a new Black student at St. Clair Prep, assist Jake in his quest to vanquish Sawyer and protect those he loves. Meanwhile, diary entries from Sawyer himself pepper the novel, offering a glimpse into what can drive someone to violence. Jake, who is gay and dealing with the stress of being closeted, not only manages supernatural antagonists, but everyday racism and microaggressions as well. His experiences supply crucial social commentary and insight into the ways discrimination can isolate and depress young adults. Lush and emotive prose chronicles Jake’s journey, though the novel’s short length and brisk pace leave some crucial aspects of the plot feeling underdeveloped.

Spooky, atmospheric, and layered. (Paranormal. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984812-53-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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