Exciting, for readers who can get past the annoyingly persistent credibility issues.

LATITUDE ZERO

 

A mystery involving bicycling culture set in greater Boston and Ecuador. Seventeen-year-old Tessa Taylor has been the perky host of the Boston-based cable TV show KidVision for four years. But when she gets caught “bandit riding” (riding without raising the necessary money) for a charity event, she loses her job. Worse, she thinks she’s caused the death of star EcuaBar team cyclist Juan Carlos, who went down in the crash Tessa caused when she pulled out of the charity race abruptly. Thus begins a layered plot of murder and racketeering full of twists and turns. Author Renn knows her way around competitive cycling—the nuanced descriptions of the operation of bicycle-racing teams are spot-on. Where the story lurches, however, is in the barely credible decision-making of its narrator, Tessa. Tessa’s rationale for not contacting the police when she is threatened (“[n]ot so simple”) is not convincing, and too many of Tessa’s decisions force readers to wonder whether she’s just used to having her own way and not listening to others or if she is, in fact, clueless. To be sure, Tessa’s bad decisions lead to a great deal of exciting action and tension that keep readers turning the pages, but the excitement doesn’t outweigh the overall believability problems.

Exciting, for readers who can get past the annoyingly persistent credibility issues. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-01558-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters.

RETRO

A no-technology challenge in a small Northern California town turns sinister.

After Samantha shoplifts but lets her friend Luna take the fall for her crime, Luna is rightfully enraged—and not least because her mother, a Spanish immigrant, is at risk of losing her visa to remain in the U.S., making any sort of criminal activity especially harmful. Luna uploads a video of a drunk Samantha bad-mouthing her friends and other classmates to Limbo, the social media app everyone’s obsessed with. Even though she has regrets and deletes it shortly after, she isn’t fast enough, and the video goes viral. The harsh response results in Samantha’s attempting to take her own life. The fact that she survives alleviates some of Luna’s guilt, but she still sends a private message to the app developers, explaining her role in what happened and asking for their help as she seeks accountability. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Limbo CEO comes to their school and proposes a challenge: Any student who manages to go the entire school year without using technology, including their phones, will receive a full-ride scholarship to college. As the year progresses, however, some of Luna’s friends disappear and the real nature of #RetroChallenge becomes clear. Though the fast pace will appeal to reluctant readers, it comes at the expense of character development and relationship-building, making it hard to feel attached to any of them. The stilted dialogue poses another obstacle.

A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66590-275-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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