A teen road trip packed with music and drama. There’s plenty here to both love and hate.

THE HATERS

Wes and Corey are haters. They are obsessed with music and even more obsessed with finding the reasons why everything they encounter falls short of greatness.

At jazz camp they meet fellow hater Ash, an intriguing, guitar-playing, older girl. They form a band and then proceed to make a series of dumb decisions that range in severity from bad to awful as they ditch camp to search for the perfect gig. It quickly becomes clear that this tour is a pressure cooker in which everyone’s ugliest traits will appear and start wreaking havoc. The banter among the three is often grating, laden with sexual frustration, dick jokes, and musical one-upmanship. Each of the three is pampered with privilege, yet something is awry. Ash is stupendously rich, the daughter of a Brazilian billionaire and a French model, both absentee. Wes was adopted from Venezuela by white, Buddhist parents who don’t make him the center of their universe. Corey is white and Jewish with overattentive musician parents who sometimes can’t pay all the bills. Though there are some truly hilarious scenes (such as Wes’ biting observations about the awkward ways in which well-meaning white people want to talk about race or his internal, self-scathing dialogue while high), other attempts at humor, such as casual jokes about suicide bombing and rape-y behavior, while believable as adolescent banter, strike the wrong chord.

A teen road trip packed with music and drama. There’s plenty here to both love and hate. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2078-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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The shelves are already crowded with teens-training-for-space stories; there’s no need to make room for this one.

THE FINAL SIX

From the Final Six series , Vol. 1

Teens become astronauts in record time for an inaugural space mission.

After losing his family to “the greatest flood Rome has ever known,” skilled white Italian swimmer Leo Danieli would never have expected that in his darkest moment he would be drafted by the European Space Agency to attend the International Space Training Camp, where teens will train to terraform and colonize Jupiter’s moon Europa for human settlement. California native Naomi Ardalan, a second-generation Iranian-American, has also been chosen for her expertise in science and technology. During a period of violent climate change worldwide, Earth’s governments are desperate to draft teens for a space mission for which they have only a few weeks in which to prepare. Twenty-four teen finalists, many orphaned by cataclysmic natural disasters, have been chosen from all over the world to compete for this space colonization mission. Warnings come to Leo and Naomi that there is a more sinister aspect to this mission, especially after things go tragically awry with other candidates during the training. The relationship that develops between Naomi and Leo feels forced, as if their meeting necessitates speedy deployment of a romantic cliché. The use of predictable plot devices, along with the fundamentally ludicrous premise, undermines any believability that would make a reader invest in such an elaborate space journey.

The shelves are already crowded with teens-training-for-space stories; there’s no need to make room for this one. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265894-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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