A complex, intriguing YA sci-fi adventure.

External Forces

THE LAWS OF MOTION: LEX 1

In this dystopian young-adult novel, a teenage girl with a secret genetic anomaly undergoes grueling military training—and also finds love.

In Rix’s debut, the first in a planned trilogy, America closed its borders after an asteroid known as “God's Fury” destroyed most of the world. Now, the Department of Evolution, or “Devo,” carefully culls people not deemed genetically acceptable and controls breeding to enhance or remove genetic traits. Devotees serve the Devo to ensure order and genetic purity—because beyond the borders, genetically imperfect Deviants are lurking, trying to get in. Sixteen-year-old Jess Grant and her best friend, Jay, have only a few possible futures: They can become Devotees, become breeders or join the military. But Jess has a reason to avoid the Devotees—she has a genetic defect that has given her a brown mark on her stomach, and the ability to react at superspeed when attacked. The handsome, mysterious Sgt. Matt Anderson takes a special interest in her and picks her to be a part of his Black Ops squad. Soon, she’s learning to shoot guns and throw knives as part of her military training while also exploring a romance with Matt. Jess eventually finds out that people outside the borders may not be monsters; later, she learns that she may be a prophesied savior of the world known as “The Navigator.” Although this dystopian novel doesn’t tread much new ground, it does provide a magnificently imagined world and intriguing characters. Rix engagingly plays out Jess and Matt’s relationship with subtle touches, longing looks and playful banter. She also effectively challenges her young readers to face difficult questions—what does “human” mean, and who should decide?—while ably setting the stage for an upcoming sequel.

A complex, intriguing YA sci-fi adventure.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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