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METAL MOUTH

A tale presents troubled adolescence and romance through the eyes of a remarkable teen protagonist.

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A high schooler struck by lightning suddenly begins hearing—and conversing with—a boy’s voice inside her head in this YA fantasy.

Fifteen-year-old Floridian Mahlorie Moore is often alone, not always by choice. Her mom, Victoria M. Reddish, a famous author of romance novels, is typically away for book signings. Her magician dad, Bob, is usually performing on cruise ships. Though socializing is low on Mahlorie’s list, she reluctantly heads to a party one weekend that her best friend, Shai Dwenger, suggests. But after an intoxicated boy’s unwanted advances, Mahlorie leaves in the midst of a raging storm. She’s hit by lightning, which she miraculously survives. Only now she hears a male voice in her head, and it’s quickly apparent he can hear her, too. It takes some getting used to, but the boy is considerate and sometimes helpful, as when he provides the solution to a math problem in Mahlorie’s class. She learns she’s speaking with 17-year-old Dyson Hertz, who becomes a friendly voice and, eventually, something much more. When his voice evidently disappears, Mahlorie wonders if he’s simply no longer talking to her. So she searches for him to get answers and maybe see the boy she loves in the flesh. Mahlorie, who narrates her story, is a bright but convincingly flawed protagonist. For example, she seemingly has a fear of abandonment while simultaneously isolating herself. But she tends to be frank, and if a boy invades her personal space, she doesn’t hesitate to let him know. Engle’s first-rate cast of characters includes sometimes-selfish but consistently loyal Shai and Mahlorie’s creepy older cousin, Philip. Her parents are likewise memorable, although their jobs are excessively conspicuous metaphors (for instance, Victoria will “plot” Mahlorie like one of her characters; control in life is merely an illusion). Nevertheless, the author recounts familiar situations in lyrical fashion, from an awkward silence (“Quiet roars between us”) to a trek in the dark woods (“Night stretches through the crunch of leaves and sticks that snap beneath my feet”).

A tale presents troubled adolescence and romance through the eyes of a remarkable teen protagonist.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73287-862-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: JME Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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POWERLESS

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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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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