A sublime, energized heroine headlines this tale of a dark future.


A teenager proficient with knives seeks vengeance against a corrupt authority figure in this YA dystopian adventure.

Tessa is surviving in the city of Victor’s Dark District. Only the wealthy live in the Light District, with the Enforcers targeting any Darksiders trying to steal necessities like food and clothing. Employing her knife-throwing skills, courtesy of her father, Tessa faces off against Enforcers as she raids Light District warehouses. She anonymously steals supplies for Darksiders, always wearing a cap to hide a facial scar from Enforcers. These Robin Hood-style exploits earn her a nickname, the Scorpion, which soon both Districts know. Tessa also works with her romantic interest, River, and Elle, a rogue Lightsider whose father, Campbell, leads the Enforcers. But an apparent betrayal and a threat against Cass, the 10-year-old girl Tessa cares for, lead to the Scorpion turning herself in. Once inside Decay prison, Tessa aligns herself with her cell neighbor Pike, a former Enforcer trainee, and the two plan an escape. Tessa’s ultimate goal is revenge against Campbell, who, she learns, has devised a scheme that’s taking away jobs from Darksiders and putting money that should be theirs into his own pockets. Wilson’s swiftly paced tale is grim but entertaining. While the Dark District proves more harrowing than Decay, where Tessa regularly has food, her later problems escalate both the tension and the melodrama. For example, she remains torn between Pike and River; constantly worries about Cass; and debates whether certain friends are traitors. Tessa is a resounding protagonist; she’s capable, smart, and has enough flaws—including impatience—to be believable. The novel would have benefited from a backstory centered on Tessa showing how she mastered such skills as building and maintaining the bots she uses to “scout” areas. Regardless, it’s gratifying to watch her vigor and tenacity inspire others.

A sublime, energized heroine headlines this tale of a dark future.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-826-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along.


Juliette, the girl with the deadly touch, struggles to fit in with the resistance movement that saved her at the end of Shatter Me (2011).

In training to participate in an inevitable war against the Reestablishment, Juliette Ferrars should feel at home at Omega Point. In addition to no longer being a prisoner, she is surrounded by other people with supernatural gifts. Compassionate Castle tries to help her master her abilities, and Kenji tries to help her fit in, but the devastating nature of Juliette’s power hampers her efforts. Additionally, Adam is acting strangely—in large part because of his work with Castle to determine why he is able to touch Juliette safely—which causes difficulties in their relationship. Soon some of her new comrades are abducted while on patrol by soldiers led by Warner’s father, who demands a meeting with Juliette. The resistance is able to come away from the meeting with a hostage, Warner, who resumes his part in the established love triangle. Too much of the plot relies on Juliette’s withholding of important information and revelations, even against her own judgment. The bloated relationship drama takes priority over the captive resistance members in the buildup to the climax, which finally brings action before setting up the next novel.

Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along. (Science fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-208553-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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