Less a bold rebellion, more a boring bureaucracy, albeit with a strong, doomed female protagonist.

STAR WARS: QUEEN'S SHADOW

A former queen plays politics to guide the galaxy’s future in this Star Wars novel.

After four years as Naboo’s Queen Amidala, Padmé Amidala Naberrie retires…to become a senator of the galactic Republic. Accompanied by new handmaidens—bodyguards/body doubles—to Coruscant, she tries to fight slavery (and find young Anakin Skywalker), avoid assassination, restore her public image, and retain her idealism. Tasked with reviving a main character from the often critically and popularly reviled prequels, Johnston (That Inevitable Victorian Thing, 2017, etc.) explores the diverse settings, delights in the alien cultures, and even expands the romantic possibilities to include same-sex relationships. Padmé and her handmaidens are assumed white; other humanoids' races are only noted when not white. The various species of Star Wars appear here but only as background characters. Readers without encyclopedic Star Wars knowledge receive name-dropping and cross-referencing rather than character development, while critics of Episodes I through III may still reject this interlude’s earnest explanations for the cinematic sources’ flaws, which are reproduced here—too much politicking, not enough passion. Padmé is a potent symbol but remains a flat character, restricted by her political role, her ornate, excessively described costuming, and her circumscribed cinematic fate. Sabé, her former but steadfast handmaid, has more depth but regrettably fewer chapters.

Less a bold rebellion, more a boring bureaucracy, albeit with a strong, doomed female protagonist. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02425-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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