Entirely human in its affections and an occasional page-turner.

STRANGE DAYS

As an impending alien invasion threatens Earth’s future, 17-year-old Latinx Alex Mata grapples with self-doubt, loss, and love in Singer’s assured debut.

Curious times await Alex: Terrifying rumors of alien encounters abound, and dissonant guitars and a teasing voice invade his mind. After an alien murders his parents, he’s wanted for questioning. Fleeing from Los Angeles to Seattle, Alex joins an underground group set on stopping the incoming extraterrestrial menace. Led by enigmatic tech whiz Jeffrey Sabazios, the group of teens must travel through time witnessing—exploring future scenarios and locking them into place—to ensure humanity’s survival. The U.S. government denies all suggestions of alien activity; the president’s daughter, meanwhile, encouraged by a time/mind-traveling Alex, learns the truth and plans on alerting the public. Things eventually, and predictably, take a sinister turn, ending in grim revelations amid an apocalyptic backdrop. The author succeeds more in his development of Alex, a young man learning to deal with his self-worth and feelings for others, including Paul, his white, gay roommate, and a black teen named Corina, his love interest. More intriguing thriller than hardcore science fiction, the novel mixes doses of political intrigue with extraterrestrial dread. Portions of the story are stretched out at unnecessary length, but sweet moments between characters keep things heartfelt.

Entirely human in its affections and an occasional page-turner. (Science-fiction thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4024-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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