A triumphant YA novel that explores what can be found when everything is lost.


An immensely satisfying coming-of-age story wrapped around an intriguing adventure.

Affluent, popular and athletic, high school junior Jack Morrison had everything, and everything to lose. His life begins to derail when his mother dies of cancer. His father soon remarries and then gets charged with involvement in a Ponzi scheme, two events of nearly equivalent grimness to Jack. But misfortune is in store for Jack. His 5-year-old brother, Danny, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. With an incarcerated father, deceased mother and AWOL stepmother, Jack assumes the role of primary caretaker. Instead of taking Danny for the recommended, but ultimately futile, treatments, Jack and his childhood friend Jill decide to try to fulfill Danny’s wishes by embarking on a quest to the Arctic Circle to find the polar bear Kunik. The great bear is featured in an Inuit legend handed down from Jack’s great-grandmother and is believed to escort dying people to Nanuqpakma. The road to the Arctic Circle is, of course, paved with numerous external obstacles and emotional struggles. The pace of the action is exactly what it should be—fast enough to keep readers turning pages but slow enough to allow emotional nuances to develop. Heninger (Eyes in the Stone, 2007, etc.) applies an appealing sense of magic and spiritual possibility in this work. He seems to have a good ear for the ways that people of various ages and ethnicities speak; dialogue is natural and believable. Character development is generally excellent, with even minor characters deftly portrayed in a few swift strokes. The disappointing exception is the stepmother, Claire, a one-dimensional gold digger so unmoved by Danny’s cancer that she can’t even trouble herself to return calls from his oncologist. For a woman so hurt by her first husband’s premature death that she attended a grief group (where she met Jack and Danny’s father), this callousness begs for more explanation. However, this sort of misstep can be overlooked in a work of this overall quality. Building on its strengths, the book’s intensity increases until the emotionally gratifying conclusion.

A triumphant YA novel that explores what can be found when everything is lost.

Pub Date: May 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469931746

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.


When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A slo-mo environmental disaster story.


Weather witches confront climate change in this fantasy.

Clara Densmore is her generation’s sole Everwitch and is unwilling to embrace her powers. Unlike the male and female autumn, winter, spring, and summer witches, whose powers peak during their respective seasons, Clara thrives year-round. At the Eastern School of Solar Magic in Pennsylvania, 17-year-old Clara shuns friendships and only does short-term flings, as her love can be lethal and has already killed her parents and best friend. Losing her powers seems like the selfless solution, but nonmagical shaders have pushed the planet too far with their environmental destruction. Seasonal witches are starting to die amid accelerated natural disasters—and only Clara can save the world. A budding romance with magical mentor/visiting botany student 18-year-old Sang Park from California helps Clara bloom. Redheaded, blue-eyed Clara is cued as White, and Sang is Korean American—but race, class, and other identity-related concerns are rarely a factor in this world. Debut author Griffin unfortunately fails to breathe new life into chosen one fantasy tropes—the obligatory villain, the unavoidable romance, the overly dramatic sacrifice—but excels at lush and lovely descriptions of nature and the weather and delivers a stern, if heavy-handed, message about environmental consequences of modern living.

A slo-mo environmental disaster story. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-942-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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