Amped action and layered characters enhance this commendable second installment.



Electra Kittner uses her superior intellect to help the president of 22nd-century America combat a virus and terrorists in the continuation of Ratza’s (The Girl with the Lightning Brain, 2018) sci-fi series.

Twenty-one-year-old Electra is the sole survivor of a helicopter crash. As part of a secret operation in the U.S., the helicopter had been transporting individuals with data on the Techno-Plague virus, which triggers rapid onset of dementia. Though the crash severely injures Electra and causes amnesia, she gradually regains her faculties—but she won’t let everyone know how much has come back. Years ago, lightning struck her pregnant mother, giving Electra her name and “lightning brain” (superior intelligence and strength as well as T-Plague immunity), and she’s long suppressed her skills for fear of others’ unfavorable response. When the Guardian Party overthrows the current administration, Jared Gardner is the new U.S. President. Electra, whose leaks on T-Plague projects at the National Institutes of Health (where she was employed) helped secure Jared’s current position, becomes his covert adviser and speechwriter. This affords her some control to find a T-Plague vaccine and thwart terrorists intent on deploying the virus as a weapon. Meanwhile, physical assaults from terrorists unleash her “Monster”—her often brutal retaliation. Ratza’s follow-up is an improvement over the series’ first now that the lead is evolving. For example, Electra struggles to feel empathy, which adds vulnerability to a character with seemingly indestructible brainpower and strength. She also learns more about her late parents courtesy of relatives she meets for the first time. Despite copious discussions on the T-Plague or terrorist activities, the story has a steady pace and frequently showcases Electra’s physical aptitude (“She sidestepped the thrust, using his arm for leverage and swinging him three hundred and sixty degrees, then throwing him down the stairs”). The ending offers resolution for at least one subplot and a fantastic cliffhanger that will leave readers yearning for the next book.

Amped action and layered characters enhance this commendable second installment.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2018


Page Count: 428

Publisher: Stonewall Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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