In Strauss’ debut novel, Casey Donavan must deal with all the average problems of the average, modern teenage girl: body image issues, mean girls at school, an impossible crush—and spontaneous time travel.

Within the opening paragraphs of this YA romance, the reader learns about Casey’s time-traveling woes. Casey tells the reader herself, in fact, using the same sarcastic, witty first-person voice consistently maintained throughout the book. First-person perspective done right makes a protagonist seem more accessible, and Strauss certainly does it right with Casey. Aside from her secret time-traveling troubles, Casey must also deal with all the relatable drama that often defines one’s teenage years. But if she thought that balancing her two separate lives proved difficult before, it only gets harder after her two worlds collide; she accidentally takes her crush—school heartthrob and star athlete Nate Mackenzie—back in time with her, and the whole situation leaves him feeling more than a little unnerved. All things considered, though, he adapts remarkably well to this strange set of circumstances and the unusual girl responsible for them—which is fortunate, considering the fact that Casey accidentally drags him back to the 1860s nearly every time they touch. The two of them must determine the nature of their unexpected relationship while navigating turbulent times together. Strauss successfully addresses the societal differences between then and now, providing enough detail to make the characters’ actions seem plausible without overwhelming the reader with too much historical information. The author addresses the difficult topic of time travel in a similarly balanced manner, leaving the phenomenon just vague enough to prevent too many sticky questions from popping up. The lack of detail in some portions of the novel make a few scenes seem rushed, however, and may leave readers wishing they had more to mull over. Readers who “trip” back in time with Casey will wish they could stay longer in her strangely relatable place.


Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466440968

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2012

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.


From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.


From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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