A well-paced, diverting Mars-survival adventure with a wobbly blend of science and mystical fantasy.



Celine Red Cloud, first girl born to a human colony on Mars, teams up with Alexander, an untrustworthy visiting rich kid, on a dangerous expedition to find her father, lost somewhere in the mysterious Martian terrain.

Hunter’s debut is an assured YA sci-fi novel despite fuzzy science that morphs into fantasy and magic whenever convenient (or inconvenient) to the plot. Hundreds of years in the future, adolescent Celine is the only juvenile in a struggling Mars colony. Having been born there, she is literally the first “Martian girl.” But her life is in upheaval. Her father disappeared while scouting for mineral deposits, and the settlement’s shady safety director seems less interested in finding him than in courting Celine’s mom. The colony’s disappointed financier, tycoon Alexander Rittenhouse, visits from Earth to determine the unproductive compound’s future. Celine latches onto teen Alex Rittenhouse—the older man’s clone-cum-son—assuming he’ll have the resources to help her locate Dad. But Alex (whose money has also made him a reality TV superstar) is a spoiled, sneaky knockoff of his father, and the boy’s feelings for Celine are mixed with scorn and interest for ratings and self-aggrandizement as they head for the sandstorm-swept, volcanic Martian canyons on an unauthorized, dangerous rescue attempt. Moreover, Celine is having flashes of heightened senses and glowing eyes. Is she becoming something not quite human? Adding a multicultural flavor, as well as a layer of occult spirituality, is the fact that Celine and her father share a Cherokee heritage, and she communes shamanistically long-distance with a grandmother on Earth. Although the plot wraps up satisfactorily, Hunter throws readers curveballs (or curvemeteors, take your choice) with a rather puzzling time-related plot twist and suggestions of generations-old eugenics experiments, military conspiracies, even a pre-existing Martian civilization persisting like ghosts (à la Ray Bradbury) that affects Earth’s visitors, both human and animal. The result is an entertaining SF-adventure narrative that nonetheless raises as many questions as it answers, possibly laying groundwork for a sequel.

A well-paced, diverting Mars-survival adventure with a wobbly blend of science and mystical fantasy.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-92260-6

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Bayada Publishing House

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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