A bold page-turner that interrogates the notion of winning one’s heart’s desire.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A dangerous supernatural being starts granting a teen’s deepest wishes in Sullivan’s debut YA fantasy.

In St. Louis, Missouri, Baxter “Bax” Allen is a sophomore at Truman High School. His parents split up 13 years ago, and he lives with his mother, Sara, who supports them with two jobs. He also suffers from episodes in which stress causes him to faint. One night, on his way back from his best friend Jason Franklin’s house, Bax meets a stranger who insists that Bax give Greg, the teen’s estranged father, a gaudy ring with a purple gem. Bax accepts it even though he doesn’t know where his dad is. The next day, as Bax and Jason examine the ring, a short, monkeylike being with white fur appears and asks to be of service. This is Janni, a low-level djinn; it obeys Bax’s wishes, but its powers have limits—for example, it can’t change people in any way. Later, Ashley Bryant, Bax’s brainy neighbor, asks Bax to have Janni spy on her parents. Eventually, Bax dreams of getting everything he wants—financial stability, his parents reunited, and the attention of his crush, Scarlet Lane. However, a more powerful entity may cause Bax to regret his desires. Sullivan presents several familiar ingredients of YA adventures, including a nerdy, underdog protagonist and threatening bullies, but it’s the djinn that truly makes this fantasy shine. Janni provides a fertile source of humor, as when it tries to help with the dishes; it’s also noted that the djinn smells like burnt hair whenever traveling via magic. There’s discussion of how a more powerful djinn could improve the world by, for example, curing cancer, which sounds a note of seriousness to the narrative. Later, well-executed twists ratchet up the horror: “He yelled but only heard the shrill grinding of metal. Then, in a split second, he heard nothing at all.” Bax’s supporting cast is well developed—especially Ashley, who begins the tale as a social outcast. Sullivan provides a tight finale, although fans will surely crave more.

A bold page-turner that interrogates the notion of winning one’s heart’s desire.

Pub Date: May 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5092-4008-1

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2022


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

Close Quickview