The talented author and original subject matter largely counterbalance missteps.

THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES

In 1970, a decade after statehood, the difficult lives of four Alaska teens are transformed when their paths intersect.

Growing up poor is tough anywhere; it has its own flavor in Fairbanks. Raised with her younger sister by their grimly religious grandmother, Ruth is isolated and unprotected. For Inupiat Dora, life improves when she’s informally adopted by a kind Athabascan family, but although her violent, alcoholic dad’s in jail, she still feels unsafe. Alyce, whose parents have separated, lives with her mother in Fairbanks, fishing with her dad in summer. She wants to audition for college dance programs and that means staying in Fairbanks, disappointing her dad. Fleeing a troubled home, Hank and his brothers sneak onto a ferry heading south; then one disappears. The Alaskan author depicts places and an era rarely seen in fiction for teens: shopping for winter clothes at the Fairbanks Goodwill, living in a summer fish camp on the Yukon River and on a small fishing boat. All benefit from her journalist’s eye for detail. Though compact, the novel features a large cast of sympathetic characters. At first somber but resonant, the plot eventually veers onto a different course. As the tone shifts to highly upbeat, outcomes feel pat, rewards unearned. The effect is to gloss over and minimize the aftereffects of childhood poverty, fractured families, and domestic trauma.

The talented author and original subject matter largely counterbalance missteps. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-49778-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.

COLD HEARTED

A TALE OF THE WICKED STEPMOTHER

From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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