An engaging YA fantasy/romance adventure.

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THE HAYVEN SERIES

A young woman gains magical powers and discovers a secret, fantastic world in George’s debut novel.

British university student Avery “Ava” Gray studies international business with her friends and lives a fairly ordinary life. But when a bizarre incident at Hayven Books nearly kills her, Ava’s destiny changes forever. Ava is warned by an “old woman…[with] blue, vein-lined eyelids...arms [laid] out limp with life within them” of the coming of “a terrible darkness” if she doesn’t act to turn the tide. While recovering, she encounters the striking Theodore-James “Theo” Connors and the mysterious Jane Hartleigh, and subsequently discovers that she has strange new powers. Ava, it turns out, is a “gifter”: a human with magical abilities beyond those of ordinary people. Her new friends introduce her to the mystic city of Hayven, which exists in the human world but separate from it, and she soon becomes part of its society. But with her new path comes great danger, as she struggles to help protect Hayven from sinister forces, even as she deals with her growing feelings for Theo. Meanwhile, it seems that the line between the normal world and the magical one isn’t as solid as it had first appeared. The premise of a likable reader-surrogate discovering hidden powers and life’s purpose is common by now. What George brings to her version is a sort of writerly charisma: her narrative style is inviting, and she demonstrates a good sense of character and pacing. Even Theo, the magical boyfriend, transcends the limits of such stock figures; like most of the cast, he’s shown to have an inner life and thinks and feels about subjects other than the main character and plot. The dialogue is natural and effective, and the overall storyline is reasonably inventive. The author also wisely does just enough worldbuilding to tell the story, rather than offering a travelogue of her fictional world. As with many novels in this genre, it’s the first in a planned series, and in this case, further installments would be welcome.

An engaging YA fantasy/romance adventure.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 302

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2015

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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