Much food for thought and discussion; but above all, a gripping read.

FREED BY FLAME AND STORM

A former slave must choose between vengeance, mercy, and justice in the conclusion of the epic fantasy duology that began with Bound by Blood and Sand (2016).

After much struggle and sacrifice, Jae mastered her elemental magic and ended the drought ravaging her desert realm. Now she and Elan, forswearing his once-exalted status, seek to destroy the Curse enslaving the Closest caste. But their newfound allies demand nothing less than overthrowing the rule of the Highest—including Elan’s beloved sister Erra. Allen’s return to this stark fantasy world tackles tough issues: power and privilege, order and freedom, trust and loyalty, the use and abuse of history. The clean, spare prose does not shy away from violence (including rape) intrinsic to the rigid social hierarchy, but it also portrays a culture without discrimination based on race (every character is variously “brown”), gender, or sexual orientation. Jae’s character—bitter, grieving, weary, striving for compassion, but ferociously committed to freedom—dominates the narrative. Elan remains generous, supportive, and sensitive, especially to Jae’s conflicted response to his romantic hopes. Honest and conscientious Erra may be the chief antagonist but is in no way a villain. Message never overwhelms story; as rising tensions, stakes, and casualties all hurtle toward a seemingly inevitable bloody catastrophe, only astonishing (and reciprocal) demonstrations of contrition and compromise permit a fragile but hopeful reconciliation to emerge.

Much food for thought and discussion; but above all, a gripping read. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93218-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.

ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS

An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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