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THE UNMARKED GIRL

From the YaraStar Trilogy series , Vol. 1

An engrossing SF/fantasy that breathes new life into old tropes.

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A debut YA novel sees a teen girl fight for acceptance in a world of ingrained prejudice.

The planet Mira is home to two races—the sun-dwelling Photaks and the light-averse Skotads. Sixteen-year-old Yara is a Photak, but unlike the rest of her tribe, she has no birth markings. She was found as a baby in the Greens, a shadowy realm where no Photak can remain long without falling to Light Blindness. Yara can live in the light so she cannot be a Skotad. Yet she can never be a true Photak either. Taken reluctantly into the tribe, she has remained an outsider to be shunned, feared, and despised. Her adoptive parents love her, as do the younger children, but apart from them, only Kristos, the Chief’s son, truly accepts her. Yara is training to be a warrior with Kristos. Driven by the need to prove herself, she has become second to none in both the Photak fighting techniques and her own secretly developed style that is “notoriously difficult to predict” (“The offbeat moves came with their own rhythm, and from an outsider’s perspective, it looked like a dangerous, deadly dance”). On the Day of the Calling, Yara is chosen from all of the graduating trainees to defend the tribe in a ritual combat known as the inner fight. It’s her proudest moment, yet even in victory she faces disaster. For, unbeknown to Yara, her secret style mirrors that of the Skotads. Suddenly all of the tribe’s doubts come flooding back. With even Kristos now having second thoughts about her, Yara flees into the Greens—and meets a Skotad hunter who makes her question everything she’s been taught to believe. Frontin writes in the third person, mostly from Yara’s point of view, and quickly constructs an effortless blend of SF scenario, social allegory, and YA coming-of-age adventure. The prose is simple but effective, and the dialogue functional (although some of the monologues are a bit strained). But it is through characterization that the story soars. The plot spirals upward through broadly predictable yet still personal and distinctive patterns on the back of its character moments. As the first installment of a trilogy, the book lacks closure. Nevertheless, Frontin establishes Yara as a protagonist to follow and herself as an author to watch.

An engrossing SF/fantasy that breathes new life into old tropes.

Pub Date: June 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-976-8255-76-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Mark Made Group

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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