THE MONSTER VARIATIONS

The summer they turned 12, three boys lost parts of themselves: James lost his family and friends, Reggie lost his tough-guy facade and Willie lost his left arm. As he prepares to leave town for college, James remembers that summer and how the invulnerability of childhood quickly succumbed to the ravages of adulthood. Instead of a dark coming-of-age thriller, however, Kraus offers readers a jumble of teen-literature conceits with muddled language, dull characters and a rambling plot. Outside of vocabulary tests, few sixth-grade boys use words like “exquisite” or “penitent,” and obtuse chapter titles are needless affectations. The author writes James’s passive nature into apathy, which transfers to readers. Willie’s quick acceptance of handicapped life borders on saccharine, and the lack of internal exploration over the change appears disingenuous. Reggie’s obsession with the class loner feels cheap, a forced way for him to deal with his own home circumstances. Lacking cohesion, the action falls to shambles, leaving readers with a bundle of words, shadowy characters and played-out literary techniques. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-73733-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun...

DOROTHY MUST DIE

When a cyclone deposits a 21st-century Kansas teen in Oz, she and readers discover there’ve been some changes made.

Dirt-poor “Salvation Amy” Gumm lives in a trailer park, effectively parenting her alcoholic mom (her dad ran off years ago), who seems to care more about her pet rat, Star, than her daughter. That doesn’t mean Amy is eager to be in Oz, particularly this Oz. Tyrannized by a megalomaniacal Dorothy and mined of its magic, it’s a dystopian distortion of the paradise Baum and MGM depicted. In short order, Amy breaks the wholly capricious laws and is thrown into a cell in the Emerald City with only Star for company. There, she’s visited first by the mysterious but sympathetic Pete and then by the witch Mombi, who breaks her out and takes her to the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (among whom is the very hot Nox). Amy may well be the salvation of Oz—only someone from the Other Place can take Dorothy down. Paige has clearly had the time of her life with this reboot, taking a dystopian-romance template and laying it over Oz. Readers of Baum’s books will take special delight in seeing new twists on the old characters, and they will greet the surprise climactic turnabout with the smugness of insiders.

In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun than many of its ilk. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228067-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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