Elegant, admirable and thought-provoking—but not, alas, engaging.

CIRCLE OF STONES

Myth, fiction and history are layered into a narrative edifice as impressive and impenetrable as the architecture the story celebrates.

In ancient Britain, the druid king Bladud vows to build a great stone temple to honor the healing waters of the goddess Sulis. In 18th-century Aquae Sulis, Zac Stoke is apprenticed to a mystically inclined architect obsessed with transforming the city. And in modern Bath, a troubled teenage girl takes the name Sulis, hoping to elude the terrifying specters from a past that haunts her. Told in alternating chapters with different typefaces and distinctive voices, each protagonist’s account echoes and intertwines with the others: Names, places, events, behavior, words, images—all repeat, reverberating back and forth through time. This is a dazzling literary exercise, constructed with careful precision with patterns and symbols, but it’s so precise and mannered that it repels emotional involvement. Spot illustrations do help illuminate many of these motifs, but readers unfamiliar with the history and architecture of the English city may still be left adrift. The personalities of the characters don’t help: Bladud is grandiloquent and obscure, Zac arrogant and contemptuous, and Sulis shuttered and paranoid. Their interactions with the eponymous stone circles help each to heal and grow, but the mechanism of this transformation remains frustratingly opaque.

Elegant, admirable and thought-provoking—but not, alas, engaging. (Historical fiction/suspense. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3819-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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