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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Scheming and action carry readers at a breathless pace to an end that may surprise them and will definitely leave them...


From the Grisha Trilogy series , Vol. 2

The Grisha Trilogy turns from bildungsroman to political thriller in its second installment.

Sun Summoner Alina and former Ravkan army tracker Mal, once her childhood friend and now her would-be love, are on the run. All they want is to put Ravka and the megalomaniacal Darkling far behind them. Alas, this is not to be. Captured by the Darkling and forced onto a ship captained by the notorious pirate Sturmhond, they find themselves in pursuit of the second of three magical amplifiers that will make Alina powerful beyond belief—and bind her ever-closer to the ancient, evil Darkling. Sturmhond has an unexpected agenda of his own, though, and turns on the Darkling. Darkling temporarily thwarted, Alina and Mal find themselves back in Ravka’s capital as part of the ailing king’s younger son’s attempt to find his way to the throne. Bardugo’s sophomore effort smooths out many of the rookie wrinkles that marred Shadow and Bone (2012); Alina’s wry voice does not interfere with worldbuilding, instead keeping readers immersed in the plot. Characters are rich and complex, particularly the Peter the Great–like younger prince and Alina herself, beset by competing claims and desires. Is she Mal’s lover? Prince Nikolai’s pawn? Commander of the Grisha Second Army? Saint?

Scheming and action carry readers at a breathless pace to an end that may surprise them and will definitely leave them panting for the series’ conclusion . (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9460-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...


From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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