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KIDS LIKE US

A charming teen debut.

Sixteen-year-old Martin Dubois navigates family, friendships, and neurotypical attitudes in Reyl’s teen romance.

Spending the first half of the summer in France on location with his filmmaker mother and Stanford-bound sister is as thrilling as it is terrifying for Martin. The white, autistic teen’s near fluency in French, his penchant for classic French cookery, and his complex affinity for Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (or Search, as he calls it) ought to make the trip an exciting immersion. But they are not enough to drown out Martin’s anxiety about attending a general education French high school (lycée), where his ways of interpreting and interacting with the physical and social worlds are sure to clash with others’. To his surprise, however, he makes friends with a few students rather quickly and finds referential roles for all of them in Search, including the potential for romance. But when it becomes clear that the other teens have only befriended him for his proximity to Hollywood stars, Martin begins to consider all the relationships in his life and what they mean to and for him. While Reyl hasn’t broken the mold of autistic teen protagonists, Martin is a credit to the growing corpus, with multimodal idiosyncrasies that he builds on rather than buries and a validating first-person narrative and first romance.

A charming teen debut. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30628-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

Bound to be popular.

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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