Kassidy’s life in “deepest, darkest, dorkiest suburbia” would be manageable (the drudgery of her all-girls’ high school and...

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GIRL OUT LOUD

A resolutely average teenager nearly collapses under the weight of her bipolar father’s outrageous expectations.

Kassidy’s life in “deepest, darkest, dorkiest suburbia” would be manageable (the drudgery of her all-girls’ high school and the unfairness of her brother Raff’s ability to get away with petty criminality notwithstanding), were it not for her sense of responsibility to keep her mercurial father on an even keel. Over the years, she’s gone along with his schemes for fame and recognition, submitting to testing to join Mensa and auditioning for a fish-sticks commercial as well as the National Youth Orchestra. But when Dad announces his intention to coach Kassidy to victory on The X Factor, she realizes that indulging him is no longer a viable strategy. Compounding Kass’ anxiety are a kitchen-sink’s worth of other issues: a reciprocated crush on the boy who turns out to be the object of her friend Char’s affection, the possibility that Raff may be drawn into a life of serious crime, and the discovery of her mother’s secret life outside the home. Gale succeeds in building a claustrophobic emotional atmosphere for her heroine to push back against, but the pileup of issues tips her story into unbelievable, soap-operatic territory. Readers will enjoy Kass’ self-deprecatingly funny approach to her many problems, but the credulity-straining plotting renders this a secondary purchase, at best. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-30438-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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