A sympathetic protagonist combines with intriguing medical possibility for a solid thriller.



A shy girl grabs an opportunity to change her personality with an illegal genetic transformation.

Aislyn can barely manage to speak in public, she’s so shy. She can’t bring herself even to let Jack, her secret heartthrob, know she likes him. Her shyness cripples her life. When she loses a scholarship she should have won because she cannot make a simple presentation, she despairs. She’s good at science and works with a brilliant scientist at a laboratory researching genetic modifications to treat diseases, such as the cystic fibrosis her brother, Sammy, has. When Dr. Sternfield offers her Charisma, an experimental gene modification meant to boost confidence, Aislyn agrees. The treatment works. Aislyn begins a real relationship with Jack and finds herself interacting with others easily, even boldly. However, she soon realizes that she isn’t the only person who has taken the secret treatment, which uses a virus to carry the modified genes. When others become sick and fall into comas, and some die, the scandal hits the news—and Dr. Sternfield goes missing. Meanwhile, Aislyn’s mother, fearing gene therapy, keeps Sammy out of a promising gene treatment for cystic fibrosis that could save the boy’s life. Ryan presents a portrait of a public response to an epidemic that is especially resonant given recent panics. Suspense balances with discussions of bioethics for a provocative and entertaining read.

A sympathetic protagonist combines with intriguing medical possibility for a solid thriller. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3966-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.


Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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