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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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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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)


A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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