A slow-burn story that could do with more sparks.

THE JUNE BOYS

A girl struggles to uncover the identity of a kidnapper before her cousin’s time runs out.

Almost every June, three Tennessee boys disappear. They’re kept in an underground bunker for 13 months before being released; 12 have been taken so far. The mysterious kidnapper is known as the Gemini Thief: an adult of average height and weight dressed in a welding helmet and a black racing jumpsuit. Thea believes the Thief took her cousin, Aulus McClaghen, the year before and that he was not a runaway. When the body of a known Gemini Thief victim turns up with Aulus’ keychain, fear escalates—and her eccentric father immediately comes under scrutiny as the last person to see Aulus before his disappearance and the one who gave him the distinctive keychain. The two had been working on Thea’s father’s passion project, a castle he claimed God asked him to build. Despite the pain of evidence pointing toward her father’s guilt, she’ll stop at nothing to find Aulus. Two distinct narratives unfold through Thea’s first-person perspective and Aulus’ letters written within the bunker. Though the final reveal is surprising and chilling, both Thea’s and Aulus’ journeys feel meandering until they finally reach sudden crescendos. Each red herring is a bit too hammered in, and truly tense moments are few and far between. One of Thea’s friends is black while all other characters are white.

A slow-burn story that could do with more sparks. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7852-2190-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Thoughtful and entertaining.

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BETTER TOGETHER

Estranged sisters plan a scheme à la The Parent Trap but are met with an unexpected twist.

Eighteen-year-old Siri Maza from New Jersey is mired in anger and uncertainty after an injury cuts short her burgeoning ballet career. At her mother’s insistence, she agrees to attend a wellness retreat in Colorado—and crashes into a barely remembered long-lost sister she’s been told was an imaginary friend. After bombing spectacularly onstage, 20-year-old Los Angeles comedian Jamie Federov is happy to escape to the Rediscover Yourself retreat, even if it is one of several conditions set by her father upon her moving back home. Jamie’s shocked when she encounters the younger sister she hasn’t seen since their parents split up 14 years ago. Spotting an opportunity for comedic inspiration, Jamie hatches a plot for the two to temporarily swap places and confront their parents. Only when they’re on their respective flights home do they realize that they’ve been transformed to look like one another. The relative ease with which various characters accept the magical element strains belief, but the sisters’ growth over the course of the story is convincing and satisfying. With help from their love interests, Pakistani Zarar and Filipina Dawn—both of whom are well developed and endearing—Jamie and Siri, who are White, confront their individual flaws and strengths and learn to accept the work inherent to healthy familial relationships.

Thoughtful and entertaining. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76006-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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