A gorgeous and gut-wrenchingly familiar depiction of the entropic fragmentation of society

MARTIANS

A 15-year-old girl supports herself with a retail job as her close-to-reality dystopia spirals into hilariously surreal (yet tragic) chaos.

Zoë Zindleman doesn't mind school and enjoys math (the foundation of responsible consumer citizenship). One day her weepy, drunken teacher is interrupted by the small-government Governor's shocking announcement: schools are privatized, all students are graduated, and everyone gets an e-tificate of graduation and a job referral. Many students are pipelined straight from the classroom to prison, but lucky Zoë is given two choices: AllMART or Q-MART. Thank goodness for the job, because Zoë's beloved AnnaMom comes home with news of her own: she's off to hunt for a job, leaving Zoë to fend for herself in their empty cul-de-sac. As the quirky humor dissolves into the baffling unrealities of loneliness and commerce, Zoë moves into an abandoned mall taken over by other unwanted children all looking out for one another. As a new AllMART trainee, Zoë—or Zero, according to her name badge—performs menial, unending, and Kafkaesque work, always with a smile: remember, a “smile is AllMART’s welcome mat”! Subtle callbacks to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles enhance the mood of eerie devastation for those who catch the references but don't detract for those who don't. Cheery commercial scripts, news transcripts, and other ephemera of this plastic society punctuate Zoë’s narration, bearing witness to her grim environment, which, heartbreakingly, has no defeatable villain.

A gorgeous and gut-wrenchingly familiar depiction of the entropic fragmentation of society . (Science fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7756-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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