CALLING THE SWAN

This piercingly sad tale of a haunted family is assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece. Skylar’s resolve to take a summer class at a high school downtown is almost buried beneath her own apprehension and her mother’s irrationally frantic concern for her safety. Alexandra, Skylar’s older sister and sole confidante, offers only weak encouragement, and withdraws even that when Skylar begins making friends with several classmates. Thesman (The Other Ones, 1999) brings the picture into focus slowly, dropping tantalizing hints about why Skylar is so fragile emotionally, her mother sliding rapidly toward a nervous breakdown, and all of their friends and neighbors gone cold and distant. Observant readers will gradually catch on that there is something strange about Alexandra; as it turns out, however real she may be to Skylar, she was in fact abducted three years before. Exploring the public and private effects of a family member’s sudden, never-explained disappearance, Thesman takes a more restrained, but no less emotionally intense, tack than Michael Cadnum in Zero at the Bone (1996), adds a further hint of mystery by suggesting that Alexandra is visible not just to Skylar, but to her two-year-old brother too, and ultimately brings Skylar to the point where she can bid her sister’s ghost good-bye. One and a half hankies. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88874-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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I AM NUMBER FOUR

From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)

     

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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