An often engaging religious thriller thanks to a tense, ticking-clock narrative and levelheaded protagonist.



In Robbins’ Christian-themed dystopian YA novel, a Portland, Oregon, teenager relies on her faith in God to help her escape the country.

Sarah Martinez lives in a dystopian America policed by an army that, among other things, enforces a ban on publicly displaying or distributing Bibles. Sarah’s allergy to a sleep-replacement drug, Ampheine, has made her a loner, as eight hours of sleep is now seen as a sign of laziness. So it’s unusual when Justin singles her out at a dance club and mildly disturbing when he tells Sarah that she’ll see him again—and not to worry when she does. However, her future sightings of Justin and his friend, Thaddeus, aren’t bad, especially after the latter helps her evade a menacing band of leather-clad, blue-haired “burnouts.” Justin later explains he and Thaddeus are servants of God, there to escort Sarah out of the United States before a devastating missile strike in 30 days. Justin tells her that she’s the “last believer”—“the last person in your country to place your faith in God.” Sarah’s uncertain of her new status, even if her grandmother’s Bible is her most prized possession. But she packs her bags for an arduous journey of many miles, during which she encounters assorted burnouts aligned with “the Enemy.” Though Robbins’ Christian tale is generally overt in its expressions of Christian faith (as when Sarah calms herself with prayer), it uses subtlety to good effect—never specifying, for example, who the burnouts work for. There’s a definite feeling of anticipation as Sarah counts down the days to the attack. The protagonist’s genuineness makes her progressively more likable as the story goes on, as she readily acknowledges her flaws and expresses guilt over “doing the wrong thing.” Nevertheless, skeptical readers looking for straightforward answers may be frustrated; according to Justin, anything unclear in the Bible is “exactly as clear as it’s supposed to be. You have all the information you need, and you’re not going to get any more.”

An often engaging religious thriller thanks to a tense, ticking-clock narrative and levelheaded protagonist.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-6172-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2017

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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