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From the The Dream Rider Saga series , Vol. 2

A fun and engrossing superhero sequel.

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Smith’s YA Dream Rider Saga continues as its eponymous superhero protagonist faces even bigger challenges in this fantasy novel.

Will Dreycott is the wealthy 17-year-old superhero/hooded vigilante called the Dream Rider, who has the ability to travel through people’s dreams. His most recent victory saw him save the world and defeat a villainous duo alongside his new girlfriend, Case, and her brother, Fader. The trio now live together in Will’s luxurious tower (a building the rich teen has outfitted for his own purposes) in Toronto, but there is trouble in paradise: Will still yearns to find his parents, who disappeared mysteriously eight years earlier while on an expedition in Peru, and to learn the truth behind his astral powers and his severe agoraphobia. Case and Fader also hope to find their mother, who likewise disappeared years before. Meanwhile, the siblings’ own strange superhuman abilities start to malfunction as Case’s inner Voice, which warns her of danger, starts to multiply, and Fader’s ability to “fade out” makes him disappear from people’s sight—and from their memories. Further complicating matters, a cult of warring sisters schemes to obtain a mysterious crystal key by any means necessary as, in the background, a sinister figure plots away. The author’s sequel to the excellent The Hollow Boys (2022) ups the ante for adventure and suspense and continues to deftly fuse superhero and fantasy tropes. The trio of protagonists have relatable inner struggles and compelling story arcs that work well both independently and when woven into the overarching storyline of Will’s parents’ fateful expedition. Smith excels at strong action sequences, worldbuilding (introducing engaging new characters and the concept of the multiverse), and humorous dialogue: “Home Boy, ever notice your explanations don’t, you know, explain? Anything. At all.” There is plenty here to entice readers to return for the grand finale.

A fun and engrossing superhero sequel.

Pub Date: March 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781928048336

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Spiral Path Books

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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