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SAVAGE HER REPLY

Haunting and lyrical.

A feminist retelling of a popular Irish folktale.

As children, Aífe and her sisters, Aébh and Ailbhe, are sent to live with a foster father, Bodhbh the Red, the high king of their people. When Lir, a neighboring chieftain and warrior, becomes a widower, Bodhbh grants him Aífe’s eldest sister Aébh’s hand in marriage. They have four children before Aébh eventually dies in childbirth. Having once again lost a wife, Lir elects to marry Aífe so he’ll have someone to care for his children. But after falling in love with Lir, Aífe begins to grow envious of Lir’s love for the children, particularly as he increasingly neglects her. Eventually, Aífe grows bitter enough with jealousy to turn Aébh and Lir’s four children into swans who are destined to remain in that form for 900 years. Each chapter opens with an excerpt of the classic version of the myth and a calligram, or concrete poem, in the shape of letters from the ancient Irish alphabet, Ogham. Through masterful storytelling and stunning prose, Sullivan turns an ancient legend into something complex, transforming a one-note character into a nuanced narrator who carefully weaves Irish legend with a subtly searing condemnation of patriarchal society. The author stays true to the heart of the tale while subverting the evil stepmother trope. While Aífe isn’t absolved, readers can easily sympathize with her, making the outcome all that much more sorrowful. Vaughan’s exquisite black-and-white spot art is interspersed throughout.

Haunting and lyrical. (language guide) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781912417674

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little Island

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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