Occasionally pulled off course by tangential threads and underdeveloped characters, Linc’s struggle to chart her own future,...

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THE WAY THE LIGHT BENDS

Artistically gifted, academically challenged Linc is the biological child of white professional parents who wish Linc could be more like her black, transracially adopted sister, Holly—smart, athletic, popular.

Holly’s adoption from a Ghanaian orphanage was underway when Linc, four months younger, was conceived. Once close, the sisters’ paths have diverged. Linc’s on academic probation at their private school, where Holly’s an academic superstar even while juggling a boyfriend, student government, and soccer. Linc’s growing missteps (suggestive of ADD) trigger parental strictures and scolding lectures; her pleas for photography classes and transfer to an arts-focused school are vetoed. Revisiting Central Park’s Seneca Village site—a 19th-century community of freed blacks and European immigrants—where she and Holly played as children, Linc’s inspired to use photography to tell its history (its pre-European inhabitants aren’t mentioned) for a school project. Park and library visits provide useful cover for secret photography classes and a romance with classmate and fellow artist Silas. Linc’s solitary journey is convincing, but Holly, the only adopted character, never comes into focus. The questions and uncertainties she shares with Linc (wishing they’d visited her orphanage on the family’s trip to Ghana, wondering about her birth mother) remain fundamentally unexplored. Holly remains an enigma, her character arc peripheral (her image is omitted from the cover), her story half-told.

Occasionally pulled off course by tangential threads and underdeveloped characters, Linc’s struggle to chart her own future, unfolding in graceful verse, makes a compelling read. (Fiction.13-17)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-54744-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst.

DRY

When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration.

When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.

Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8196-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Yet another bland, half-baked dystopian exercise.

CRAZY HOUSE

A teen girl goes looking for her missing twin sister.

In the absence of their parents, Cassie and Becca, both white, are doing their best to tend to the family farm. One morning, Cassie wakes up to discover Becca is missing. Meanwhile, Becca wakens in a horrific children’s prison, in which the detained are forced to fight to the death. As Cassie searches for her sister, Becca does her best to survive the torture her captors put her through. The novel is set in a future in which populations are organized geographically into isolated cells. The government controls all the information going in and out. More lurks beneath the surface, and the book sets up further installments, but few readers will feel the need to keep reading. The world is poorly built, the characters are dreadfully thin, and the plotting is drastically uneven. When Cassie and Becca are finally reunited, readers will have little reason to celebrate: their relationship is so thinly sketched they barely feel like sisters. The torture sequences in the teen prison are gratuitous and dreary. A last-minute twist is easily predicted, making the slow, tedious burn toward the reveal and the barely distinguishable characters all the more intolerable.

Yet another bland, half-baked dystopian exercise. (Dystopian adventure. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-43131-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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