A fresh, enthusiastic, and wholly satisfying take on a familiar subgenre.

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SPARKED

Teens with newfound powers may be the only ones who can stop an ancient evil from rising in Echlin (Gone, 2002) and Watrous’ (If You Follow Me, 2010) supernatural mystery.

Laurel Goodwin gets worried when she awakens one morning and sees big sis and bestie Ivy isn’t in their Airstream trailer in Cascade, Oregon. Ivy’s note still leaves Laurel anxious since the handwriting doesn’t quite match her sister’s. She and mom Sheila, however, are reluctant to involve authorities, fearing Child Protective Services will reopen Sheila’s old negligence case and split the family apart. Ivy’s friends haven’t seen her, and hunky new kid in school, Jasper Blake, is also looking for her. He’s been “tutoring” her, and Laurel’s shocked to learn both Ivy and Jasper have special abilities. This validates Laurel’s ominous dream in which Ivy displays her power—as a masked man’s kidnapping victim. According to an ancient prophecy, an evil force called Druj will rise during a lunar eclipse unless four people with special powers unite. Such powers could also help find Ivy. Unfortunately, two possibilities are Cascade’s resident mean girls, Peyton Andersen and Mei Rosen, who may be disinclined to help if for no other reason than spite. Supernatural teens in literature are old hat, but Echlin and Watrous inject their novel with zeal and ingenuity. Characters, for one, are expertly drawn. Jasper can’t be one of the select four since his power, as he enigmatically states, has caused harm. Similarly, Laurel’s first-person voice intermittently gives way to perspective from Peyton and Mei, providing both with much-needed sympathy. The narrative playfully reveals supertalents one at a time while the greatest mystery is who the demon-esque Druj will inhabit, if it hasn’t already done so. There are perhaps a few too many references to Jasper’s “incredible” green eyes or Ivy’s beauty. Despite this, potential romance between Laurel and Jasper is superbly understated, and the ending even teases a sequel.

A fresh, enthusiastic, and wholly satisfying take on a familiar subgenre.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942645-64-1

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Geek & Sundry

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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