An overbusy mishmash

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WINTERSPELL

A Nutcracker retelling includes a Victorian mob princess/warrior heroine, an alternate New York City, steampunk faeries and an epic multigenerational battle.

Seventeen-year-old Clara is the daughter of New York’s mayor—which is to say her father is the poor dupe that organized crime has mounted as figurehead leader. Heartless Patricia Plum and depraved Dr. Victor are the real leaders, with the city at their mercy. When Dr. Victor isn’t committing vile tortures on the bodies of imprisoned waifs, he’s sexually harassing Clara, who’s afraid to fight back. She could fight back, however, because Clara’s Godfather has spent his life training her to become the kind of fighter one only sees in computer games, with a tear-away gown hiding her many knives. These skills will serve her well when she’s thrust into the fairyland Cane, accompanied by sexy prince Nicholas, who until recently was a statue: a sinister, repulsively marked statue she’d always found fascinating and more recently erotic. In Cane, the humans (who once tortured faeries for fun) have been defeated by the equally sadistic and sexually threatening faeries, who force all humans to become drug addicts. Perhaps Clara can help, or maybe she’ll succumb to the homoerotic advances of the evil queen.

An overbusy mishmash . (Fantasy. 15-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6598-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Best leave it at maybe so.

YES NO MAYBE SO

Two 17-year-olds from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, work together on a campaign for a progressive state senate candidate in an unlikely love story.

Co-authors Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat, 2018, etc.) and Saeed (Bilal Cooks Daal, 2019, etc.) present Jamie Goldberg, a white Ashkenazi Jewish boy who suffers from being “painfully bad at anything girl-related,” and Maya Rehman, a Pakistani American Muslim girl struggling with her parents’ sudden separation. Former childhood best friends, they find themselves volunteered as a team by their mothers during a Ramadan “campaign iftar.” One canvassing adventure at a time, they grow closer despite Maya’s no-dating policy. Chapters alternate between Maya’s and Jamie’s first-person voices. The endearing, if somewhat clichéd, teens sweetly connect over similarities like divorced parents, and their activism will resonate with many. Jamie is sensitive, clumsy, and insecure; Maya is determined, sassy, a dash spoiled, and she swears freely. The novel covers timeless themes of teen activism and love-conquers-all along with election highs and lows, messy divorces, teen angst, bat mitzvah stress, social media gaffes, right-wing haters, friendship drama, and cultural misunderstandings, but the explicit advocacy at times interferes with an immersive reading experience and the text often feels repetitious. Maya’s mother is hijabi, and while Maya advocates against a hijab ban, she chooses not to wear hijab and actively wrestles with what it means to be an observant Muslim.

Best leave it at maybe so. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293704-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Featuring short, punchy chapters, engagingly flawed characters, and a plot that churns ever forward, this frothy confection...

AFTER HOURS

The stakes of a game of dares grow uncomfortably high for four teens.

The Waterside Café is as good a workplace as it is a fine dining experience. The clientele is classy, and the post-work game of Tips run by sleazy (but initially tolerable) manager Rico provides the young staff with biweekly opportunities to make extra cash on the side by fulfilling outrageous dares. The four protagonists of Kennedy’s debut—Isa, Xavi, Peter, and Finn—each have something to hide, and all four try to use Tips’ promises of financial independence and social capital to achieve their goals. Isa wants to leave her beauty-queen past behind, Xavi wants to attend fashion-design school in New York, Peter wants to become a chef (and win his stepsister Xavi’s heart), and Finn just wants to have fun. As the intensity of the summer’s dares increases, the four teens face ever steeper consequences for their choices, including a pregnancy scare, potential arrest for teen prostitution, and being framed as a burglar. An impressively efficient series of coincidences and schemes must be assembled in order to keep the stakes for these likable kids from becoming depressingly real.

Featuring short, punchy chapters, engagingly flawed characters, and a plot that churns ever forward, this frothy confection may not nourish, but it will certainly delight. (Fiction. 15-17)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3016-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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