An imaginative, gripping YA tale of love and violence.

Raksha

Young-adult science fiction about a teenage warrior girl who escapes her dystopian society and goes on a mission to find herself.

Rose (Eternal Hope, 2012, etc.) doesn’t disappoint in her third YA outing. In a futuristic society known as the Sanctuary, 16-year-old Kit is a member of the Falin class. The Sanctuary fits each Falin with a permanent “halo,” a device that provides its host with a constant feed of emotion-blocking drugs. As a result, Falin feel no anger, sadness, joy, love, pity or shame—which is why Kit has become her nation’s most renowned arena fighter without feeling an ounce of guilt over killing so many other young people. But when her best friend, Asha, manages to disengage Kit’s halo, everything changes. No longer content to be a political pawn and gambling plaything, Kit escapes the Sanctuary and goes to Freetown, where she witnesses a very different kind of society. Meanwhile, she struggles to process her many new feelings; complicating matters, of course, is a male warrior who makes it his business to become Kit’s savior. This YA adventure has action-packed fight scenes, strong emotional connections, tragic losses and a healthy dose of sarcasm. Kit, as narrator, describes frighteningly violent fights in detail and later moves fluidly into personal, confusing romantic reflections. She struggles with familial losses and with achieving her larger goals in an uncertain world. Rose handles these scenarios with finesse and insight. As the residents of the Sanctuary and Freetown prepare for war, readers can only hope that there will soon be a sequel to tie up the remaining loose ends.

An imaginative, gripping YA tale of love and violence. 

Pub Date: May 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483945156

Page Count: 354

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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All the narrative propulsion of escapist fiction without the escape.

PHASE SIX

Paced like a prophetic thriller, this novel suggests that "pandemic" is a continuing series.

Shepard has frequently employed research as a foundation for his literary creations, but never before in such pulse-racing fashion. He's set this narrative in the near future, when the threat of Covid-19 has passed but provides a cautionary lesson. And what have we learned from it? Not enough, apparently, as an outbreak within an extremely isolated settlement of Greenland begins its viral spread around the globe. Readers will find themselves in territory that feels eerily familiar—panic, politics, uncertainty, fear, a resistance to quarantine, an overload of media noise—as Shepard's command of tone never lets the tension ease. Eleven-year-old Aleq somehow survives the initial outbreak, which takes the lives of everyone close to him, and he may provide the key to some resolution if anyone can get him to talk. The novel follows the boy and the pandemic from Greenland to a laboratory facility in Montana as, in little more than a month, the virus or whatever it is, spread by touching, traveling, breathing, has infected some 14 million around the world. Jeannine Dziri and Danice Torrone, a pair of young researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who have dubbed themselves the “Junior Certain Death Squad,” find themselves on the front lines as they attempt to balance personal relationships (which occasionally read like plot contrivances) with all-consuming professional responsibilities. Meanwhile, the pandemic proceeds relentlessly. “APOCALYPSE II?” screams a Fox graphic amid “the social media cacophony,” as mass hysteria shows how human nature can take a horrible situation and make it so much worse. And though the novel builds to a sort of redemption, it suggests that there will be no resolution to the current pandemic beyond nervous anticipation toward the ones to come. Channeling Pasteur, Shepard promises—or threatens—“It will always be the microbes that have the last word.”

All the narrative propulsion of escapist fiction without the escape.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65545-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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