Inadequate worldbuilding and uneven characterization make for a read that's as blank as its protagonist.

GENESIS GIRL

From the Blank Slate series , Vol. 1

Vestal Blanca is a beautiful, 18-year-old orphan who has been raised and educated digitally pure at the Tabula Rasa School, which was founded after the great Brain Cancer Epidemic, caused by cellphones, wreaked havoc on the tech-addicted populace.

Upon graduating, Vestals are “harvested”—purchased via auction—by corporations to be shills, or they enter into contracts with private individuals as Geishas. The white teen is purchased by Calum McNeal, a private individual who has selfish motives for wanting her—just not the ones everyone imagines. Cal and his son soon realize just how deeply Vestal training is embedded in Blanca and how harmful it is. As Blanca tries to prove that she is an exemplary Vestal, her life starts to unravel in a way that shows her that maybe thinking for herself is the only true solution. The story struggles to fulfill its high-concept premise. Character motivations often feel arbitrary, morphing to suit the plot. In particular, justifications for Blanca’s actions or inaction in some scenes contradict the mantras and life philosophies that she claims to live by and that drive her actions in others. Vestals lack agency and autonomy, and the sexual undercurrent suggested in the Geisha route that Blanca is forced to take is both creepy and insufficiently interrogated, at least in this series introduction. The romance elements fall short with an insta-love that is simply not believable.

Inadequate worldbuilding and uneven characterization make for a read that's as blank as its protagonist. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944816-75-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Month9Books

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.

GRIS GRIMLY'S FRANKENSTEIN

A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

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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