A good idea that needs better delivery.

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VALKYRIE RISING

This debut introduces readers to Norse mythology, apparently still operating in modern times.

Sixteen-year-old Ellie travels to Norway to visit her grandmother and finds that she has an identity she never expected. She learns that both she and grandma are Valkyries, the mythological maidens who transport dead warriors to Valhalla, where they join Odin’s supernatural army. But it seems that Odin has decided not to wait for more battles to supply him with warriors. He wants new warriors now, so he sends his supermodel-gorgeous Valkyries out to kidnap living boys. As soon as Ellie arrives, she learns that the local population hates both her grandmother and her, with the exception of handsome Kjell, who can’t stay away from her. But when both Kjell and Ellie’s recently arrived brother Graham fall prey to the Valkyries, Ellie vows to get them back. Meanwhile, she’s in love with Tucker, Graham’s best friend and traveling companion, who seems immune to the Valkyries, and Ellie will learn the reason why in due course. Paulson does a nice-enough job of incorporating the Norse legends, but she laboriously explains every detail of the story, every decision Ellie makes, every feeling Ellie experiences and every move she makes. Even with the decisive battle raging, the action stops for more explanations (and some flirting).

A good idea that needs better delivery. (Paranormal romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-202572-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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