This uncomplicated, romantic story will charm reluctant readers who want a little magic but not all the tedious rituals.

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WITCHTOWN

Modern witches have relationship problems, too.

After the Second Inquisition, the U.S. government instituted a National Witch Registry and established witch-only communities known as Havens. The most prominent one, established by a powerful billionaire witch, was Witchtown. When Macie O’Sullivan and her manipulative mother, Aubra, arrive there after a string of robberies in other Havens, the white 16-year-old herbalist hopes that this will be their last con job and that they will finally settle down. In her breezy yet solid first-person narration, Macie knows she should case the town for targets and keep her head low so no one discovers that she’s a magicless Void and takes a branding iron to her. Yet she can’t help befriending Talya, a fellow misfit and a psychic who sees people’s secrets, and crushing on Kellen, who has secrets of his own. (Both are white.) Light tension and mystery ensue (with a few clever red herrings) when religious zealots threaten the Haven and Macie, Talya, and Kellen plot to end Aubra’s cons once and for all. But could their plan reveal the truth about Macie in the process? Maybe the truth is not what it’s always seemed.

This uncomplicated, romantic story will charm reluctant readers who want a little magic but not all the tedious rituals. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-76557-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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