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


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

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A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime.


A dangerous quest to feed an impoverished land leads to chance encounters and awe-inspiring sights.

Shuna, the prince of a humble, struggling country, acts on the advice of a dying traveler from an Eastern land to seek out seeds that will grow bountiful grains. What he finds is a hostile city built on greed with an active slave trade. After meeting Thea and her little sister, Shuna fights to free them from enslavers. Every scene in this cinematic work stands apart with breathtaking watercolors aided by expert staging and blocking. The sights along Shuna’s journey range from a derelict ship in a treacherous desert to supernatural creatures and settings. The certainty and simplicity of Shuna’s motivations along with Thea’s own narrative arc allow the story to move nimbly from one larger-than-life spectacle to another. The pages read right-to-left manga style, while large panels and minimal dialogue create an immediate, immersive experience for readers. The narration sits outside or along the edges of panels, allowing the lush visuals maximum room to impress. Afterwords from the author and translator describe the story’s roots in a Tibetan folktale as well as comparisons to Miyazaki’s later animated works; this story, translated from Japanese, was originally published in Japan in 1983 before Miyazaki rose to fame with Studio Ghibli. The story’s cultural origins are cued through characters’ garb and other visual elements.

A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime. (Graphic fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84652-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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