An exciting, action-packed romp that hits a few bumps along the way.


A dangerous race is run with everything on the line in this gritty dystopian thrill ride.

Adam Stone has lived his whole life in the run-down town of Blackwater. He spends his time riding his byke, dreaming of local beauty Sadie Blood and a life in Sky-Base, the luxurious city in the clouds. The only way for Adam to get to Sky-Base is to win the Blackwater Trail, a brutal race that attracts the best of the best and the lowest of the low. When mysterious outsider Kane shows up out of nowhere, all hell breaks loose and Adam finds himself racing for vengeance with Kane and Sadie at his side. No one will hold up this book as a prime example of originality, but few will deny its ability to entertain. The novel's first third is its biggest weakness: over-the-top prose veers dangerously close to dystopian parody, and the worldbuilding is remarkably thin. The latter section, which details the long, winding race, is far superior, filled with action and suspense and cool character reveals. Through it all, readers stick with Adam, a character Hofmeyr smartly draws as just a kid who wants to get somewhere. It's a simple character type, but there's something to be said for relying on an old favorite. Less exciting is Sadie, who never rises above her stock character type of love interest/damsel in distress. By novel's end, readers will be very familiar with her curves but not remotely aware of her emotions.

An exciting, action-packed romp that hits a few bumps along the way. (Dystopian adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74473-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike.



From the Villains series

A chronicle of Cruella De Vil’s descent into Dalmatian destruction.

The only child of Lord and Lady De Vil, Cruella was enamored by high society life from a young age. She idolized her cold, demanding mother and loved her caring father, despite his giving her less extravagant gifts. Both parents wanted her to distinguish herself, though they intended very different meanings by that word. While young Cruella believed that servants and others from less privileged backgrounds should know their places, Anita, her less socially lofty best friend, was an exception. But as she grew up and married, she had to face the question of what it really meant to possess wealth, beauty, and happiness. Framed as a memoir, this story vividly expresses Cruella’s personality. Valentino does a solid job of establishing the cast of characters, and fans of the animated film will enjoy connecting the threads. While there are moments of softness that evoke readers’ empathy, Cruella unapologetically wields her power to behave cruelly. She is ultimately fueled by her desperation for maternal validation, jealousy, delirium, and a perhaps-cursed pair of earrings. Jovellanos’ art deftly captures a range of emotions, specifically in showing how Cruella’s face is transformed in response to her whims. Using a color palette of muted reds, blacks, grays, and whites, the illustrations express a fitting tone for a Cruella tell-all. Characters read as White.

Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike. (Graphic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-06816-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.


From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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