An electrifying start to a YA series that feels like it can go anywhere in the galaxy.

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SHIFTERS

In the Pershings’ YA sci-fi debut, a group of teenagers develop superpowers and learn that their existence threatens an intergalactic empire.

Fourteen-year-old Tanner and his 12-year-old sister, Ryland, are the middle children in an average family from Wethersfield, Connecticut. Ryland is beautiful and popular, but Tanner is small for his age. Their normal lives are upended when they confront a teenager named Kai, who’s been stalking Ryland. Kai pulls a knife, but Ryland somehow disarms him with super-speed; he then tells her, “[Y]ou just Shifted.” The siblings’ parents soon confess that the whole family is from another planet, and now that Tanner and Ryland have reached puberty, their Shifter abilities, which come from adrenal-gland bursts, have kicked in. To their astonishment, the kids also learn that they were brought to Earth to escape a Shifter society that wanted to kill its own children, due to a prophecy that stated that a “young Shifter would change the balance” and allow Ordinaries (non-powered slaves) to rule. Unfortunately, evil Shifter intermediaries known as Keepers are already hunting Tanner, Ryland, Kai and other superpowered youths. Can the siblings protect their family and friends against the threat? The authors boldly show their love of comic-book superheroes in this charged and often hilarious narrative. The story segments alternate between Tanner’s and Ryland’s perspectives, which lets the teens entertainingly rib each other, as when Ryland says her brother “did a half decent job setting up our predicament,” but “I am definitely the right person to tell the interesting part of the story.” Fans of Superman (and Supergirl) will enjoy the protagonists’ alien origins, and X-Men readers should appreciate the youths-against-the-world theme. The story flows organically, putting intriguing helpers and haters in the kids’ path, although their time on the lam stretches a bit long. Nonetheless, the regularly occurring twists and explosive finale will keep readers riveted. Finally, the book brilliantly teases a possible future tale about another Shifter-ruled alien world.

An electrifying start to a YA series that feels like it can go anywhere in the galaxy.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491091647

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2014

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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