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From the Solstice series , Vol. 1

A solid but slightly suffocating YA tale of a dictatorship set in a 2099 that parties like it’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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In a repressive, future world of rising sea levels, a teenage girl must hide her forbidden emotions from all-powerful authorities—and from her questionable friends and classmates.

In this slickly told YA sci-fi tale by Redd, a pseudonym of prolific historical fiction author Heather B. Moore (Love Is Come, 2016, etc.), climate change has brought about the world that George Orwell famously predicted, only a century or so behind schedule. In 2099, Jezebel is a teenager in a world tormented by ceaseless rainfall. The last sizable, high-tech city-state, which exists in subterranean complexes on diminishing high ground, has taken harsh measures to preserve itself: it’s created generations of kids micromanaged by guards and teachers in a rigid atmosphere of heavy science education. There are also formal bans on sex, families, religion, and even emotion, enforced by “Harmony” dermal implants. Jezebel, however, is a so-called “Carrier” who has free thoughts and feelings; she struggles not to show them, due to constant monitoring. She may also be able to activate mysterious, hidden “generators” that could solve the weather crisis. When she receives an ancestral inheritance, it includes one highly taboo item—a journal written by her grandmother Rose describing life in “Before” times, including the terrible offense of falling in love. Straightaway, government operatives seize Jezebel and run her through an ordeal of trials and treatments. Have they uncovered her Carrier status, or is Rose’s journal part of an elaborate loyalty test that also involves Jezebel’s close friends and fellow prisoners? The story has a timely ecological hook. However, its scope remains confined to sterile, institutional settings and totalitarian-nightmare tropes that have a long history in future-shock sci-fi literature. The reign of terror has droplets of conservatism and evangelicalism (note the scriptural character names), but it doesn’t get overly preachy about it. Characterizations tend to be rather stifled, although readers may forgive that, given the chilly, lockdown environment and a fear-ridden narrator whose world (and personality) is largely purged of past history and attachments. The big question of the “generators,” though, remains almost completely unanswered. In the closing chapters, the author finally opens up the fictional world, which brings a breath of fresh air to the material. Redd may explore the dystopian landscape to a greater extent in potential sequels.

A solid but slightly suffocating YA tale of a dictatorship set in a 2099 that parties like it’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-941145-69-2

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Mirror

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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The Sassy Divas

A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.

A bossy middle school fashionista feels threatened by the new girl in Saii’s YA novel.

Vanessa Pocker and her friends Chelsea, Adrienne and Katie are the richest of the rich in their Santa Monica, Calif., middle school, and they comprise the Sassy Divas. Vanessa leads the pack and dictates whom the divas are allowed to talk to, what they’re allowed to wear and how they conduct themselves in public. Vanessa is so domineering that it’s a miracle she has any friends at all. Had Saii endowed her with an ounce of kindness, the loyalty of her minions might be more understandable. Vanessa’s militant nature finally alienates Katie, the diva who is too much of a bookworm, according to Vanessa. Katie befriends Flo, who’s on the Sassy Diva “do not speak to” list (Flo had once refused to hold Vanessa’s purse). Excommunicated from the Sassy Divas, Katie befriends the new girl at the school, Quinn. This infuriates Vanessa, and she declares war. A power play ensues among the adversarial lip-glossed sets, with Vanessa, Chelsea and Adrienne on one side and Katie, Quinn and Flo on the other. Vanessa turns to guy friend Ryan, who offers the only voice of reason when he admonishes her for obsessing over trivialities, such as revenge and makeovers, when there are starving children in the world. He seems to be nothing more than Vanessa’s sounding board, and it’s unclear what he gets out of the relationship. At least Vanessa buys clothes and makeup for her divas, on occasion. Mired in trendy youngster lingo, Saii’s tale accurately depicts girls’ power plays and the alienation that can result from simply owning jeans without a designer label. Fashion, gossip, popularity and shopping define these characters, and any threat of competition is cause for war. Vanessa’s parents rarely make appearances, except for a poignant scene when Vanessa’s mother engages her daughter in a heart-to-heart about her selfish behavior. It’s a relief to finally hear the mother speak and lead the story to an ending marked with humor and depth. Saii’s literary chops are inconsistently displayed and improve toward the conclusion. Although the average middle school girl may not wear Jimmy Choos or form private elitist groups, young readers might find themselves curious about these affluent trendsetters. At least Vanessa learns her lesson, which raises the novel a notch above teenybopper fluff.

A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 9781937675080

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Lekha Publishers

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2013

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An intriguing, if not always emotionally engaging, story of a serious teen problem.

Somers’ debut young-adult novel follows a teenage boy from sickness to tenuous health as he battles an eating disorder and the problems that helped create it.

Nathan is a typical teen with typical problems, including an unhappy family life and romantic disappointment, but he’s got an unhealthy “solution” for dealing with them: starving and purging himself. His descent into bulimia and anorexia occurs quite quickly; it starts with Nathan taking short bike rides to get away from his domineering father and alcoholic mother, and soon he’s inducing vomiting; not long afterward, he’s admitted to an eating-disorder program, at which point the book seems to find its center. Nathan is the only boy in his unit, a fact that his status-obsessed parents find it hard to understand; in fact, as the book makes clear, boys make up 10 percent of those who suffer from eating disorders. Somers’ novel never falls into “after-school special” territory, but it has a clear message. Nathan is depicted as a smart, cynical teenager, but his trials are sometimes more informative than heart-wrenching. The short chapters, complete with bad teenage poetry, keep the story moving, and Nathan’s dad, mom and nurse all get at least one chance to tell their side of the story. But although these multiple points of view are interesting, they may distract readers from Nathan’s personal trials. Also, the novel sometimes gets bogged down in eating-disorder program protocol; for example, a plan to interrupt Nathan’s family therapy takes two pages of emails, rather than a line or two of dialogue.

An intriguing, if not always emotionally engaging, story of a serious teen problem.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0988367203

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Rundy Hill Press LLC

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2013

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