A riveting fantasy sequel that skillfully expands the boundaries of its predecessor.

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In this second installment of a YA fantasy series, a new evil emerges in a magical realm, and three visiting teens must once again embrace their heroic roles.

In two weeks, Ben Young will be graduating from South Point Middle School. He and his best friend, Marcus Cooper, plan to become “cool” over the summer before starting at Trinity High. Ben worries that his girlfriend, Avery Hopewell, can’t possibly like him in the waking world after seeing his bravery in Meridia, the magical realm that the teens visit in their sleep. Later, at the school year’s final dance, Avery and Ben enjoy themselves—until the fire alarm sounds. During the panic, Ben faints. He wakes up in Meridia with Avery and Marcus in a boat rowed by their elf friend, Tamerlane. Also present is Wolf, one of the flying dogs called dragonwoofs native to the realm. The group is soon captured by the Red Army, now commanded by Marissa, who, like Ben and his friends, is a weed—someone transported to Meridia from the waking world. Though Marissa has taken over for the sinister, deceased Sovereign, a worse threat imperils the land. The Ghastly Three, led by the Supreme, want to assemble five artifacts into the World Builder and remake Meridia in their horrid image. For this engaging sequel, Massey once more carefully balances true adolescent drama with high-stakes fantasy. After Marcus succeeds in fending off school bullies—and is accused of being one himself—his parents decide to send him to a “behavioral fitness camp.” Meanwhile, Avery, who lives in a group home, is adopted by a family living in faraway Oregon. Perhaps saddest of all are Marissa’s real-life travails, which involve a home shattered by mental illness. Ben’s potential as a rare mage who can wield opposing elements (like fire and ice) simultaneously carries the gripping narrative into familiar chosen one terrain. Despite beautiful moments, as when “a soft white light seemed to emanate from the base of the glass trees, illuminating the entire forest,” this is a dour series entry. An eerie cliffhanger primes fans for the next volume.

A riveting fantasy sequel that skillfully expands the boundaries of its predecessor.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 9798525339774

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2021


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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