Nevertheless, readers will appreciate Ori's gently self-deprecating humor and the lively Web postings and texts woven...

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ROCK ON

A STORY OF GUITARS, GIGS, GIRLS AND A BROTHER (NOT NECESSARILY IN THAT ORDER)

Self-conscious Orion "Ori" Taylor is the front man for a promising, but nameless band in this teen drama.

Encouraged by some good local press, The Band to Be Named Later enters itself in a Battle of the Bands and subsequently auditions bass players while Ori works at strengthening his nerves. Confounding this process is the presence of his older brother, Del, who was once Ori's idol—until Del failed to keep up his grades while on a lacrosse scholarship at college. Humiliated to be back at home, Del takes his frustrations out on Ori. When a girl Ori is crushing on seems to throw him over for his brother, tensions run even higher. Vega has imbued her tale with well-developed characters—Ori's first-person voice is sympathetic, especially coming to life when he's singing and playing guitar. For all that, the tone seems unusually sweet, given that the novel's focus is a high-school rock band: How many 16-year-old boys confine themselves using phrases like, "What the heck…" in a peer-only environment? Moreover, as the strife between the brothers draws out, its protraction may lead readers to expect a twist or a more of a revelation than what actually manifests. 

Nevertheless, readers will appreciate Ori's gently self-deprecating humor and the lively Web postings and texts woven throughout that help tell the story . (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-13310-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.

A MAP OF DAYS

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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