A promising beginning, but readers will have to wait for the next volume of the Shamra Chronicles to see if that promise is...

CURSE OF THE SHAMRA

THE SHAMRA CHRONICLES

Dara has always been an outsider among the peaceable Shamra, but when her people are enslaved by the Trocs and their predatory Shriek birds, only she can lead the Resistance.

Hoffman (Hungry Eyes, 1997, etc.) ventures into young-adult territory in the first of a trilogy based in a world inhabited by human/animal hybrids with very human problems. The blue-eyed, brown-skinned Shamra have marsupial-like pouches, froglike tongues and a happy, communal culture guided by a priesthood that fosters sharing, a casteless social structure, celebration and the complete subservience of adult females to their husbands. Orphaned Dara is a brown-eyed tomboy gifted with prophetic visions. On her adoptive sister Pilla’s wedding day, their isolated domain is invaded by the Trocs, who resemble parasitic worms and quickly enslave the defenseless Shamra. Dara and a few others flee to the swamps, where Dara is anointed the prophesied One who will lead them to freedom—even though she is a female. When Pilla and her betrothed Wren mysteriously disappear, Dara realizes that she must follow her visions to seek help in the unknown lands beyond the surrounding desert. Accompanied only by her second-in-command, Heber, and her Bauble, Tyler (all Shamra have caterpillarlike companions that they carry in their pouches, but only a few Shamra realize that they can talk to them), Dara sets out to find the birdlike allies she has seen in her dreams attacking the Trocs’ subservient Shrieks. Meanwhile, Wren’s brother Glondel has discovered that the Trocs have much more in common with maggots than one might imagine. And treachery always lurks in the wings. Hoffman has constructed a world that is just alien enough to intrigue, yet familiar enough to entice. He has a didactic agenda, encouraging female agency and questioning religious dogma. However, as a novel, the story relies too often on authorial narration rather than showing the characters’ interactions, and the climactic battle is surprisingly flat, although the action may amp up in the later volumes.

A promising beginning, but readers will have to wait for the next volume of the Shamra Chronicles to see if that promise is fulfilled.

Pub Date: May 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1887368681

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Edge Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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