Powerful young women who have hope and agency to change the world: What could be more timely? (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)



From the Elementae series , Vol. 2

The nature of power, the strength of family: Gaughen (Reign the Earth, 2018, etc.) weaves big concepts into the action-filled story.

Here, the action moves across the sea to powerful air Elementa Aspasia, picking up shortly after the first volume’s conclusion. Captain, freedom fighter, slaver, and slave, Asp crews a motley collection of children and teens, all formerly enslaved, many with powers, who come from all the races and nations of Asp’s world (characters have a range of skin tones; race is not analogous to our world). Heavy topics are explored, some overtly—the psychic toll of having been enslaved, the complex dynamics of power—and some implicitly; sexual abuse of enslaved girls is subtly hinted at. The plot veers between the personal, as Aspasia searches for the siblings she lost seven years ago and falls in love with new crew member Kairos (the brother of the Tri Queen leading the resistance), and the political, as Asp and her crew work to harry slavers and find themselves instrumental in the growing war. While the balance is sometimes uneasy—there’s a lot of kissing and also a fair amount of bloodshed—the pacing keeps things moving. The final battle, when characters from both volumes come together, sets the scene for the explosive conflict to come. Gritty and dark despite tender moments.

Powerful young women who have hope and agency to change the world: What could be more timely? (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-114-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...


In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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