At times heavy-handed, but the author's enthusiasm shines through. (Dystopia. 12-17)

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THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE

Hirsch's debut explores the creation of a new civilization out of post-apocalyptic ruin.

Teenage salvager Stephen Quinn has heard stories about what America was like before collapsing due to a war with China and a virulent influenza. His paranoid grandfather keeps their family alive through harsh rules. After Stephen's grandfather dies, Stephen's father abandons their isolationism and is critically injured rescuing captives from slavers. Stephen lets go of his reluctance to trust strangers and accepts help from a scouting party. The scouts' town, Settler's Landing, attempts to recapture an idealized American past, complete with cookouts and baseball games. But Settler's Landing is no utopia, thanks to Caleb Henry, the token rich villain, and his stereotypical bully of a son, Will, who is convinced Stephen's a spy from nearby Fort Leonard. Will's usual target, wild Chinese girl Jenny, bonds with Stephen over their shared outcast status, while her adopted brother Jackson pulls him into youth sports, and teacher Mr. Tuttle encourages his intellectual growth. Stephen and Jenny inadvertently set off a chain of impulsive actions that jeopardize more than just Settler's Landing. Stephen's underlying internal conflict about the clash between social obligations and personal survival ties the first-person narration together and physically manifests in the climax.

At times heavy-handed, but the author's enthusiasm shines through. (Dystopia. 12-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-29014-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Magic, tennis action, and family secrets are woven into an original coming-of-age tale.

LEGACY AND THE QUEEN

A 12-year-old girl living in a kingdom ruled by a mysterious queen dreams of attaining her sport’s highest prize.

Legacy Petrin lives and works in the financially strapped orphanage in the provinces run by her father and rises early every day to practice tennis with her old racket. After her best friend, Van, excitedly tells her about a scholarship competition for a spot at an esteemed academy and the opportunity to try out for the national championships, Legacy runs away to the city to compete. After winning, she learns there is still much she doesn’t know: The players are not just proficient in tennis, but also have magical skills that they use to their advantage. Legacy befriends Pippa, a knowledgeable girl from an elite tennis family, and acquires a builder, or coach, Javi. With Pippa and Javi at her side, Legacy makes her way through the competition, despite sabotage attempts, learning secrets about her own family along the way. Legacy is a strong character, and the secondary characters also have interesting backstories. The storyline is reminiscent of other dystopian stories, but centering tennis—with lively descriptions of matches that give a strong sense of the sport—is an unusual touch. Most characters are white, although Javi is brown-skinned, and some other characters of color are mentioned.

Magic, tennis action, and family secrets are woven into an original coming-of-age tale. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949520-03-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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