A riveting, old-fashioned fantasy tale with a resilient heroine.

HALFLING

A middle-grade debut novel tells the story of a girl torn between her native dream world and an alien reality.

Fourteen-year-old Remmi Clearwater works as a drone in the Cavern Lands of Penumbra. Her masters think that they have mind-drained away her magical talents, but Remmi retains them, keeping them hidden as she plots her escape. Penumbra is in Dreamearth, the fantastic parallel world to Realearth. Realearth visitors only enter Dreamearth in their dreams. Remmi’s ability to create illusions—to disguise herself by temporarily taking on a different form—comes from the fact that she is a Halfling, born to a Dreamearth mother and a Realearth father. Such offspring are feared for their unpredictable powers: “They can manipulate the surroundings and even hurl people great distances with just a thought. They’ve even been known to cross over into Realearth and convince people they were blasted gods.” Remmi manages to flee Penumbra and put her magic to use elsewhere in the Dreamearth tourism industry while still attempting to uncover the secret of her origins—and the fates of her parents. Despite people’s opinions of Halflings, when a cataclysm threatens Dreamearth, Remmi may be the only one who can save it. Robb tells her story with a sense of fun and wonder that is so often missing from contemporary fantasy. Her prose is elegantly simple, conjuring wondrous images: “Not ordinary clouds, as I’d often seen from the ground. These appeared to be animals with thick, cottony fleeces. Like clouds, they faintly resembled a variety of creatures.” The author treats the plot seriously even as the world in which it is set—with place names like the Archetypal Sea and the Collective Unconsciousness Forest—winks at the reader. The result is reminiscent of the Oz stories of L. Frank Baum: the reader becomes emotionally invested in the characters while still enjoying the frivolity of the setting. Standard tropes of the genre abound, but there is an originality to the premise and vision that keeps the story fresh. The ending, in particular, is unexpectedly affecting.

A riveting, old-fashioned fantasy tale with a resilient heroine.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5398-4154-8

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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