This sequel feels like it’s under new management, its enticing high concept abandoned by the wayside all dressed up with no...


From the Elusion series , Vol. 2

Safe for now behind the firewall in Elusion, the dangerously addictive virtual-reality experience Regan’s dad designed, she and Josh join the race to dismantle it before its mass-market release.

Each of Elusion’s virtual miniworlds must be destroyed from inside, a tricky business that takes a harsh toll on the team (kids Elusion earlier ensnared, including Josh’s sister, Nora). Too soon, Patrick, Regan’s would-be boyfriend and her dad’s cohort, pulls her back to the real world but ascribes her account of finding her dad alive to nanopsychosis. Not only is Patrick no help, he’s the reason she’s confined to the hospital psych ward she must escape as the countdown to Elusion’s release continues. As in its stronger predecessor, the setup is promising, raising expectations, but structural problems hobble this sequel. The beginning crawls as readers are fed complex back story and far more abstract information than is required, via awkward dialogue, on Elusion’s programming. Once characters start interacting with Elusion (hands-down the most interesting character), the pace picks up and the story ignites, only to deflate again when Regan returns to the real world. In contrast to Elusion’s elaborate mechanics, the story’s humans feel drab and one-dimensional, and several are nearly unrecognizable, as if they’ve been replaced midarc by strangers bearing their names.

This sequel feels like it’s under new management, its enticing high concept abandoned by the wayside all dressed up with no place to go . (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-212244-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.


From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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