Opportunistic, paint-by-numbers hackwork.

SKY KEY

From the Endgame series , Vol. 2

Endgame continues as the Players hunt for the Sky Key.

The Earth Key has been discovered (The Calling, 2014), and two more keys are out there waiting to be found. Sarah and Jago have the Earth Key in their possession and have formed an uneasy alliance based on a mix of lust and trust. But Sarah still mourns the death of her Nebraskan boyfriend, Christopher, whom she was forced to kill in the closing chapters of the previous volume, a factor that strongly clouds her judgment. While Jago and Sarah hunt down the Sky Key, other Players hunt them. Meanwhile, the world is becoming aware of Endgame's existence as a giant asteroid approaches Earth and causes widespread panic. The stakes couldn't be higher, but it all feels superficial, resulting in a very long 459 pages. There's globe-trotting and a culturally diverse cast of characters, but the authors do little to explore the scenery or to color the characters. The Players sound very much alike, droning on about destiny and tough choices. The narrative structure is shaky, flipping quickly among players and locales and juggling goals with scant attention to artistry or pacing. It feels all too much like a satire of dystopian teen lit crafted with little understanding of the genre beyond its surface conventions; worst of all, it doesn’t seem to care.

Opportunistic, paint-by-numbers hackwork. (Adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-233261-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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