A perfectly pleasant read on its own, this could send readers to investigate the source—a happy outcome indeed.

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FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS

A post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion scores high for ingenuity but loses points with sledgehammer morality.

Elliot North is a Luddite, one of the elite destined to care for the mentally Reduced remnant after human genetic engineering went catastrophically wrong. But she has begun to question her duty; her family seems more interested in luxurious leisure than estate management. Her people will starve without recourse to forbidden technology, and more and more Post-Reduced children are being born. None of these "Posts" are more clever than Kai, her best friend until he ran away four years ago. Now he has returned with the fleet of Post explorers who could be the last hope for saving Elliot's heritage, but his bitterness toward Elliot may be hiding a more dangerous secret. The plot stays surprisingly faithful to Austen; the setting is cleverly updated to a futuristic dystopia, but it fails to explore the more interesting societal and technological ramifications. Instead, the original's subtle delineation of the nuances of class and social change is replaced with heavy-handed condemnations of slavery, anti-intellectualism and fundamentalist religion. The protagonists are now barely 18, and the compressed timeframe makes their remarkable accomplishments implausible, even with nigh-magical nanotechnology. However, as the emotional drama is similarly ramped to extremes, the target audience may be too swept away by righteous indignation and swoony romance to notice any lapses of logic.

A perfectly pleasant read on its own, this could send readers to investigate the source—a happy outcome indeed. (Dystopian romance. 13 & up)

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-200614-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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