Believable, suspenseful science fiction.

EXO

Sometime in the future, a young soldier working for the extraterrestrials who have conquered Earth fights a rebel group but learns that he has family ties to someone he sees as a criminal.

Seventeen-year-old Donovan Reyes wants only to be a good soldier, even though he’s the only child of the Prime Liaison, West America’s ambassador to the zhree, who conquered Earth a century earlier. When he was a child, his dad had him Hardened, transforming his human skin into flexible armor plating called an exocel, rather like the zhree. Donovan gets along well with the fairly benign zhree, as does much of humanity, but a band of rebels remains determined to expel them from the planet. Captured by the rebels, Donovan soon learns that one of their leaders has a connection to him. He also meets the pretty rebel Anya and finds himself far too attracted to her. While in captivity Donovan begins to see rebels as individuals rather than criminals, while some of them struggle with the notion that despite his armor plating, Donovan is still human. When a new threat appears readers are left to wonder whether humanity’s life with the zhree might be a good development. Lee keeps her science fiction credible, effectively building this future world and establishing its rules efficiently. Racial differences are mentioned, though Donovan and Anya both appear to be light-skinned.

Believable, suspenseful science fiction. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93343-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime.

SHUNA'S JOURNEY

A dangerous quest to feed an impoverished land leads to chance encounters and awe-inspiring sights.

Shuna, the prince of a humble, struggling country, acts on the advice of a dying traveler from an Eastern land to seek out seeds that will grow bountiful grains. What he finds is a hostile city built on greed with an active slave trade. After meeting Thea and her little sister, Shuna fights to free them from enslavers. Every scene in this cinematic work stands apart with breathtaking watercolors aided by expert staging and blocking. The sights along Shuna’s journey range from a derelict ship in a treacherous desert to supernatural creatures and settings. The certainty and simplicity of Shuna’s motivations along with Thea’s own narrative arc allow the story to move nimbly from one larger-than-life spectacle to another. The pages read right-to-left manga style, while large panels and minimal dialogue create an immediate, immersive experience for readers. The narration sits outside or along the edges of panels, allowing the lush visuals maximum room to impress. Afterwords from the author and translator describe the story’s roots in a Tibetan folktale as well as comparisons to Miyazaki’s later animated works; this story, translated from Japanese, was originally published in Japan in 1983 before Miyazaki rose to fame with Studio Ghibli. The story’s cultural origins are cued through characters’ garb and other visual elements.

A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime. (Graphic fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84652-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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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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