Outrageous and uproariously funny.

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WAR AND SPEECH

A girl plots a takedown of the toxic Speech and Debate team that rules her school.

When Sydney starts at Eaganville School for the Arts, she immediately runs afoul of the powerful Speech and Debate kids due to her mouthy nature. She’s adopted by other misfits with Speech grudges—athletic Lakshmi; former Speech star Elijah; and gay theater aficionado Thomas. Sydney decides to avenge her friends by joining Speech and Debate and destroying it from the inside. To do this, she must become good enough to stay on the varsity team all the way to Nationals. The dissent Sydney and friends sow within the team involves inflaming rivalries, toying with hormones, and various other dirty tricks—luckily, the varsity team members are so odious that their punishments remain hilarious. The true villain is the win-at-all-costs abusive coach. Sydney also copes with her family’s new normal—incarcerated father, dramatically reduced socio-economic status, and her mother’s boyfriend, a meathead lunk played for laughs (until he blossoms into a surprisingly supportive and caring character). Humor infuses everything—Sydney’s narration, gleeful profanity, irreverence, and elaborate scheme sequences. The members of the highly diverse cast have distinctive voices and personalities (Sydney and Elijah are white, Lakshmi is Indian, and Thomas is black). The infiltrate-and-destroy storyline combined with immersion in a subculture that is taken with deadly hilarious seriousness make this read like the demented love child of Mean Girls and Pitch Perfect.

Outrageous and uproariously funny. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-01007-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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