A tale where the heroine’s experiences as a grieving daughter and sister seem far more meaningful than any family secrets.


From the Anastasia Phoenix series , Vol. 1

A teenager must unravel the mysteries behind her family’s many tragedies in this first installment of a YA trilogy.

Anastasia Phoenix has had more than her fair share of uncertainty and misfortune. Her parents were biochemical engineers who created the Dresden Chemical Corporation with their best friend. But their work meant they often dragged Anastasia and her older sister, Keira, from country to country, never settling in one place for long. After Anastasia finds out that they plan to uproot the family again mere months after settling in Boston, she refuses to move. She gets her wish in the worst way possible: her parents die, leaving her Keira’s ward and ensuring she won’t be relocating soon. Now, three years later, Anastasia is 17, and Keira has disappeared after a party. Though the crime scene contains enough blood that it seems doubtful that Keira survived, Anastasia is sure she is alive. Anastasia finds evidence pointing her toward an Italian family that knows her parents—and suggests that there is more to their deaths than she realizes. Along with Marcus Rey, an attractive new student and son of Dresden Chemical employees, she travels to Italy to try to discover information about her family. While there, she learns about her parents’ clandestine past. But the more she unearths, the more she apprehends that few people in her life are who she thinks they are. Though Rodriguez Wallach (Mirror, Mirror, 2013, etc.) spices up her novel with exotic locales and intriguing love interests, the tale is ultimately more predictable than exciting. In trying to give her audience hints, the author overemphasizes certain clues and characters until readers have almost certainly guessed plot twists many chapters before they are meant to be revealed. Anastasia also emerges as an uneven character, teetering between believable—as a grieving, bullheaded teenager trying to navigate the guilt of enjoying a new crush while also investigating her sister and parents—and too good to be true. She’s fluent in four languages, a karate black belt, able to identify someone’s city of origin by hearing the person speak a single word, and lucky to have a twentysomething roommate who can hack police databases in under an hour.

A tale where the heroine’s experiences as a grieving daughter and sister seem far more meaningful than any family secrets.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63375-608-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2017

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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