A poor start, but future installments might be worth it.

THE CALLING

From the Endgame series , Vol. 1

A dangerous game begins with players from around the world competing for the future of the human race.

Twelve Players, each a descendant of a long line of other, earlier Players, have been activated. They’ve trained their whole lives in the event that Endgame would begin. The stakes: The winning Player will save his or her bloodline from extinction. The objective: find three keys hidden across the globe and bring them together. The only rule: Find the keys. Everything else is fair game. It’s a gimmicky premise, one that dominates the whole book. The plot is paper-thin, and the action is perfunctory at best. All the Players think methodically, constantly moving forward like sharks; this makes for monotonous sections with little to differentiate one Player from another. The standout is Sarah, a teen girl from Omaha, but her defining attributes are an annoying non-Player boyfriend and an inability to choose between him and the hunky Jago, a fellow Player. As a cross between The Hunger Games and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the concept of Endgame has potential—but only that, even after some 450 pages. By the end of the book, several Players have been removed from the field and the authors have established a twist, indicating that this potential may be realized in the forthcoming sequels.

A poor start, but future installments might be worth it. (Adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-233258-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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