Unusual and largely engaging.



From the Broken Sky Chronicles series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to Below (2016), 16-year-old Elia longs to return to her home in the clouds, but she is stuck trying to survive in a harsh world where her dark skin and strange eyes mark her as an outsider.

Hokk, a citizen of Below, braves the badlands to rescue her from the marauders she’s been trapped with for weeks. Together they use the rescued winged donkey and flying horse to return to the floating islands of Above. However, the sun-scorched and desolate island where they land proves to be too much for the fair-skinned Hokk. And while Elia possesses the extra set of eyelids of Above, Hokk lacks this protection. Their only hope for rescue is a family of privileged explorers. Elia quickly finds herself enmeshed in the royal court of Above, but instead of the answers she seeks, she finds only more secrets and lies. Mostly smoothing out the worldbuilding snags that characterized the series opener, this seamless blend of fantasy, dystopia, and myth yields an absorbing tale. The growing bond between Elia and Hokk will enchant true romantics, while the surprising plot twists and ongoing mystery will satisfy readers looking for a dose of danger and action. The pacing is still a bit uneven as the narration shifts among Elia, Hokk, and Tash, a noble girl of Above, and there’s a regrettable reliance on tropes of exoticism. A cliffhanger ending promises another addition.

Unusual and largely engaging. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68162-604-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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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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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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