by D.E. Varni ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 9, 2012
An interesting premise, but requires another installment to fully realize the characters and plot threads introduced.
Daniel Rooke, soldier-turned-cop, gets his toughest assignment yet when he takes charge of a special operations unit comprising supernaturally gifted soldiers.
The future of the world in Varni’s novel is very different from our own: In the aftermath of the Sol War, “Specials,” people with supernatural abilities ranging from telekinesis to super strength, find themselves on the outskirts of society, despite the pivotal role they played in the war. Unable to find jobs or housing, many must either turn to crime or to the government, the only entity willing to employ them. Into this world comes Daniel Rooke, who is recruited to lead a team of Specials and train them to find those other Specials who can’t seem to stay under the radar. Before they can enter the field, Daniel has to win the trust of the team and of his superiors, an immensely challenging task. As a non-Special, it is difficult for Daniel to convince his team that he can understand them well enough to lead them. After a series of mishaps, Daniel gets his team functioning, and together they recruit or arrest troublemaking Specials. The process is rife with racial overtones—after Daniel alienates the only black and Asian members of his original team, diversity becomes a high recruitment priority. The Specials found through this process—teleporting Joseph and lightning-wielding Christine, among others, are among the most well-developed characters in the book, with back stories and motivations that outshine those of Daniel and his team. It’s a struggle, at first, to keep straight the many similar no-nonsense, tough ex-military men in the first several chapters. The plot progresses from one special assignment to the next, all while introducing new plot threads and threats, few of which come to fruition. The end of the story is an intense cliffhanger, suggesting this is part of a multibook series.An interesting premise, but requires another installment to fully realize the characters and plot threads introduced.
Pub Date: May 9, 2012
Page Count: 460
Publisher: D.E. Varni
Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2012
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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Awards & Accolades
A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.
Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018
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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.
In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Page Count: 152
Publisher: Townsend Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013
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