Well-written humor and fizzy romance wrapped in an uneasy plot.


From the The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things series , Vol. 2

A New Yorker grapples with mixed loyalties.

Readers met Virginia Shreves in The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (2003). One semester on, the 16-year-old, who attends an expensive private school, has dyed her hair purple and green and wears brightly-colored bras. She’s trying to reconcile her list of rules entitled “How To Make Sure Skinny Girls Aren’t the Only Ones Who Have Boyfriends”—a personal campaign—with no longer having feelings for her boyfriend, Froggy. Then Annie Mills, a young woman Virginia’s 20-year-old brother raped last fall, unexpectedly presses charges. Byron, the brother she once idolized, now faces prison. Coincidentally, Sebastian, the dreamy blond boy Virginia meets at a bagel shop, turns out to be Annie’s 17-year-old brother. Despite Annie’s adamant discomfort with Virginia and Sebastian’s connection, their relationship ultimately brings solace to Annie’s mother. Annie’s feelings on the matter are sacrificed, making the otherwise-delicious romance harder to root for. Virginia’s challenges are her family—cold, controlling, and image-obsessed—and her own body image, which she triumphantly levels up, though eschewing the term “fat” in favor of “curvaceous chick.” Her secondary romance is Manhattan, detailed and buzzing, though whiter than is realistic; Chinatown and its inhabitants are exoticized and presented as foreign. The Mills and Shreves families are white.

Well-written humor and fizzy romance wrapped in an uneasy plot. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-599-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.


Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.


From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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