Brilliant, savage, hilarious, a riveting journey through a harsh world that mirrors our own.

MUNMUN

In a world where wealth—the titular munmun—determines physical size and people range from littlepoor (rat-small) to bigrich (10 stories tall), three tiny teens set out to scale up; a wild ride ensues.

Rendered a paraplegic by a cat who bats her about like a rat, Warner's mother orders him to take his sister, Prayer, to law school and help find her an upscale husband. Warner’s skeptical—they’re illiterate, for one thing. Usher, a literate friend with palsy who’s smitten with Prayer, joins them. Trouble starts when they accept a ride from a middlerich man and end up in his model-train layout. Worse is to come. Prayer’s looks, Usher’s smarts, and Warner’s ability to shape Dreamworld (a place accessible only in deep sleep, where all are of equal scale) fail to prevent disaster. Offered a home and education by a politician, Warner insists Prayer be invited, too. They’re hardworking and motivated, but some littlepoor deficits prove intractable. Warner’s distinctive voice and language compel readers to pay attention to this detailed world. Wealth rather than skin color (orange, ruby, plum, gray) confers status. Bankers Scale Up those who’ve acquired wealth and Scale Down those who’ve lost or (rarely) relinquished it. Literally embodied in the characters, income inequality becomes a horrific reality; economic theories and realpolitik sangfroid are juxtaposed with their real-world consequences. Angry and the victim of his best impulses, Warner’s no superhero. Superpowers and soothing bromides won’t mend his broken, fragile world; pull the right thread and it might unravel.

Brilliant, savage, hilarious, a riveting journey through a harsh world that mirrors our own. (Dystopian fantasy. 12-17)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2871-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters.

RETRO

A no-technology challenge in a small Northern California town turns sinister.

After Samantha shoplifts but lets her friend Luna take the fall for her crime, Luna is rightfully enraged—and not least because her mother, a Spanish immigrant, is at risk of losing her visa to remain in the U.S., making any sort of criminal activity especially harmful. Luna uploads a video of a drunk Samantha bad-mouthing her friends and other classmates to Limbo, the social media app everyone’s obsessed with. Even though she has regrets and deletes it shortly after, she isn’t fast enough, and the video goes viral. The harsh response results in Samantha’s attempting to take her own life. The fact that she survives alleviates some of Luna’s guilt, but she still sends a private message to the app developers, explaining her role in what happened and asking for their help as she seeks accountability. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Limbo CEO comes to their school and proposes a challenge: Any student who manages to go the entire school year without using technology, including their phones, will receive a full-ride scholarship to college. As the year progresses, however, some of Luna’s friends disappear and the real nature of #RetroChallenge becomes clear. Though the fast pace will appeal to reluctant readers, it comes at the expense of character development and relationship-building, making it hard to feel attached to any of them. The stilted dialogue poses another obstacle.

A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66590-275-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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Fast-moving and intriguing though inconsistent on multiple fronts.

NYXIA

From the Nyxia Triad series , Vol. 1

Kids endure rigorous competition aboard a spaceship.

When Babel Communications invites 10 teens to participate in “the most serious space exploration known to mankind,” Emmett signs on. Surely it’s the jackpot: they’ll each receive $50,000 every month for life, and Emmett’s mother will get a kidney transplant, otherwise impossible for poor people. They head through space toward the planet Eden, where they’ll mine a substance called nyxia, “the new black gold.” En route, the corporation forces them into brutal competition with one another—fighting, running through violent virtual reality racecourses, and manipulating nyxia, which can become almost anything. It even forms language-translating facemasks, allowing Emmett, a black boy from Detroit, to communicate with competitors from other countries. Emmett's initial understanding of his own blackness may throw readers off, but a black protagonist in outer space is welcome. Awkward moments in the smattering of black vernacular are rare. Textual descriptions can be scanty; however, copious action and a reality TV atmosphere (the scoreboard shows regularly) make the pace flow. Emmett’s first-person voice is immediate and innocent: he realizes that Babel’s ruthless and coldblooded but doesn’t apply that to his understanding of what’s really going on. Readers will guess more than he does, though most confirmation waits for the next installment—this ends on a cliffhanger.

Fast-moving and intriguing though inconsistent on multiple fronts. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55679-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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