Familiar sci-fi/fantasy tropes, but an entertaining read thanks to effective dialogue.

IGNITION

A 16-year-old discovers his true purpose as a Change Agent for good in this debut YA novel.

On his 16th birthday, William Hawk has a vision: “I saw the kitchen, the house, the neighborhood, the world, and the universe, all bound together in a breathtaking, vibrating, color-saturated web.” After attacking a boy (thanks to new power, surging emotions, and jumping to conclusions), William goes on the run. Hitchhiking, he’s picked up by Cy, an elderly Native American who has much to teach. He takes William to a cave, the Hall of Knowledge, covered with drawings and symbols. Meanwhile, Grace, another 16-year-old, lies in a deep coma but can communicate with William telepathically; she asks to be rescued. It seems that William and Grace are Change Agents, meant to help civilization achieve its “final ignition point” and become “one with the light.” Working against them is Roivas, Grace’s malicious twin brother, who murders William’s family and hopes to short-circuit civilization’s ignition. William and his friends must overcome a multitude of problems so that he can enter the spiritual realm, find Grace, and defeat Roivas. By the end, William can count some victories, but he still has work to do. Salow’s novel employs a somewhat threadbare plot element from YA sci-fi/fantasy: the seemingly ordinary teenager with a special destiny whose hidden strengths can save the world. Also overly familiar is the magical-minority trope, in which a Native American, Asian, or African-American seems to exist to serve the white character and has access to wisdom and knowledge that Caucasians don’t. Cy’s legends don’t even make sense as Native American—“Apollyon,” for example, is a Greek translation of a Hebrew word. The tale’s lore altogether is a bit abstract. And the slaughter of William’s family seems a bit drastic. But the story is well-written, with vivid minor characters such as William’s girlfriend, Julia, and his best friend, Arthur, who contribute to the action and help remind the reader that the hero once had an ordinary life full of kidding around and other teenage concerns.

Familiar sci-fi/fantasy tropes, but an entertaining read thanks to effective dialogue.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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