An infectious coming-of-age story about a self-effacing but gifted young man trying to discover his place in the world.

Twelve Feet Down

A debut YA novel chronicles a teenager’s crusade to construct a refuge.

It’s been a rough year for Joe McKinnon. In a car accident, Joe lost both his father and his leg. But now Joe is taking the building skills that he absorbed from his dad to raise his own hideaway—a hidden, underground condo—in the woods near his home and without his mother’s knowledge. While Joe wants to handle this project all by himself, he nevertheless recruits his father’s friend Fred Fergussen, who lines up the supplies for him and makes suggestions. An on-site accident soon endangers the project, adding to the guilt that Joe feels about lying to his mother so he can get out of the house to work on his condo. But before long, the teen’s elderly neighbor Mr. Pruitt and Tin Man, a roofer friend of his father, are in on the secret, with Joe’s grudging acquiescence: “Anyone who wants to build a condo in the woods, come on down! Just push the one-legged kid aside.” The project gets delayed because of other developments in his life: a possible girlfriend, a speech he fears giving, a friend’s injury, a fatal car accident. Despite the tragedies that are never too far away, the protagonist’s intelligence and his willingness to trust pay off during some difficult moments. In Joe, Penteros has created a vivid character who bears the cares of the world on his shoulders, which is why others are willing to assist him. In this effective tale, they see all the good in Joe, even if he can’t often see it in himself. Told in Joe’s voice, Penteros’ spare narrative reflects an average teen’s life, with the character often giving too much weight to mundane events, slowing down the story. But the fully developed protagonist skillfully handles some obstacles that life throws into his path. And along the way, Joe emerges from tumultuous times with the help of friends he didn’t know he had and a sympathetic mother he too often tried to push away.

An infectious coming-of-age story about a self-effacing but gifted young man trying to discover his place in the world.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2016


Page Count: 301

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A celebratory song of the sea.


A shrimpy 13-year-old with a super-sized passion for marine life comes of age during a summer of discovery on the tidal flats of Puget Sound.

Miles O’Malley—Squid Boy to his friends—doesn’t mind being short. It’s other things that keep him awake at night, like his parents’ talk of divorce and his increasingly lustful thoughts about the girl next door. Mostly, though, it’s the ocean’s siren call that steals his sleep. During one of his moonlit kayak excursions, Miles comes across the rarest sighting ever documented in the northern Pacific: the last gasp of a Giant Squid. Scientists are stunned. The media descend. As Miles continues to stumble across other oddball findings, including two invasive species that threaten the eco-balance of Puget Sound, a nearby new-age cult’s interest in Miles prompts a headline in USA Today: Kid Messiah? Soon tourists are flocking to the tidal flats, crushing crustaceans underfoot and painting their bodies with black mud. Dodging disingenuous journalists, deluded disciples and the death-throes of his parents’ marriage, Miles tries to recapture some semblance of normality. He reads up on the G-spot and the Kama Sutra to keep pace with his pals’ bull sessions about sex (hilariously contributing “advanced” details that gross the other boys out). But Miles’s aquatic observations cannot be undone, and as summer draws to a close, inhabitants of Puget Sound prepare for a national blitzkrieg of media and scientific attention and the highest tide in 40 years, all of which threatens everything Miles holds dear. On land, the rickety plot could have used some shoring up. Miles is just too resourceful for the reader to believe his happiness—or that of those he loves—is ever at stake. But when Miles is on the water, Lynch’s first novel becomes a stunning light show, both literal, during phosphorescent plankton blooms, and metaphorical, in the poetic fireworks Lynch’s prose sets off as he describes his clearly beloved Puget Sound.

A celebratory song of the sea.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-605-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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