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THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US

3, 2, 1…blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping.

A privileged socialite and orphaned cadet unpack the true intention of their two-person mission to one of Saturn’s moons.

Ambrose Cusk of Fédération (think United States circa 2470) is the elegant, golden offspring of Alexander the Great’s DNA and an emotionally distant mother. Kodiak Celius of Dimokratía (think Russia) is a brawny orphan-turned-cadet. The two 17-year-olds are paired on a mission to find Ambrose’s long-lost sister, Minerva, who disappeared while attempting to colonize Titan. Her distress beacon has mysteriously been activated years later. The socially, physically, and emotionally opposite boys are slowly unified by their need to understand their fuzzy, pre-mission memories; to combat an omnipresent, self-serving OS (remember HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey?); and to get to the bottom of why there’s a vacuum-sealed supply of their own cloned bodies hidden on the ship. This Groundhog Day–type loop features complex worldbuilding in terms of space, time, light, and sound. What’s not complex are base human wants and needs like manicotti, making out, and memories. Ambrose and Kodiak realize that mutual affection is a way to validate one’s existence; that human connection is essential even if you’re determined to be a loner; and that even with the same memories and experiences, our choices in love and life can be completely, wonderfully different if we have a chance to do them again. And again. And again. Main characters are implied White.

3, 2, 1…blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288828-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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POWERLESS

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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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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