An excellent franchise entry that proves planned series can be just as enjoyable as one-offs.

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THE RULE OF THOUGHTS

From the Mortality Doctrine series , Vol. 2

A trio of gaming teens battles a corrupt computer program that is hellbent on leading a virtual army into our reality.

Upon completing the Path in The Eye of Minds (2013), Michael discovered he’s nothing more than a Tangent, a stray bit of computer code that has gained sentience. Now downloaded into the brain of teenager Jackson Porter, Michael must find his friends and get ahead of Kaine, the villainous Tangent that has discovered the ability to invade the real world by corrupting human bodies with Tangent consciousnesses. Dashner has created an excellent sequel, filled with propulsive character development and a self-contained emotional arc woven through plot threads that properly lead to future installments. The escalation in plotting is smartly paced and paired with well-balanced characters that feel real rather than just character types. The author’s use of nifty technobabble goes a long way in describing a future that, refreshingly, is not dystopian in any way. Amid a sea of trilogies and series devoid of imagination or smarts, the Mortality Doctrine stands tall by having both in equal measure. This episode does end on a cliffhanger, but the enjoyable ride and arresting scenario make it easy to swallow.

An excellent franchise entry that proves planned series can be just as enjoyable as one-offs. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74141-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story.

YOU HAVE A MATCH

A DNA test reveals that Abby has a sister she never knew about—and they head off to summer camp together to uncover family secrets.

When 16-year-old Abby’s best friend and secret crush, Leo, asks her to do a mail-in DNA test with him, Abby mostly agrees to give him a little push, as he clearly wants to find out more about his birth family. While the results don’t help Leo, they bring a shocking result for Abby: She has a full-blooded sister, 18-year-old Instagram wellness star Savvy, who lives in another Seattle suburb. After meeting and realizing their respective parents used to be friends, the two girls decide to meet again at summer camp. Unfortunately, camp gets off to a rough start; Savvy is a stickler for rules, Abby didn’t read the rules in the first place, and Leo is a camp chef, which only intensifies Abby’s feelings for him. With a summer full of new friends, hijinks, delicious food, and digging up secrets, Abby has to learn to lean in and own up to the complicated parts of life. This is a heartwarming novel of friendship and family, with a little romance. The story and characters have depth and emotion, touching on topics of broken friendships, losing a loved one, deception, social media, and pursuing what you love. Abby, Savvy, and Leo’s adoptive parents are White; Leo is Filipino.

A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23730-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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