The author’s name will gain this book attention, but far better books are available for genre fans.

UNCAGED

From the Singular Menace series , Vol. 1

Can a 16-year-old foster kid save her brother from an evil corporation? Can she even find him? 

When Shay’s nearly-18-year-old brother, Odin, goes missing after the animal rights group he belongs to frees animals and steals data from a Singular research facility, Shay leaves her relatively acceptable foster home to find him. In LA, she’s saved from attack by a former street kid and now trendy, rich artist named Twist. She agrees to help Twist with one of his politically motivated actions, and he lets her stay in his hotel for street kids. Shay finds Odin—but after giving her a mysterious dog named X, Odin’s abducted. Twist and his crew of street kids agree to help Shay find her brother, but Singular’s security division won’t think twice about lying to authorities and killing to protect their illegal operations. Can Shay and her new friends survive their search for Odin even with help on the inside? Best-selling writer for adults Sandford co-authors this surprisingly languid thriller, which stuffs most of its action into the final 50 pages—presumably saving material for the next book in the series. The interesting-enough story is further hobbled by generic characters and patches of lazy, florid prose.

The author’s name will gain this book attention, but far better books are available for genre fans. (Thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75306-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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ANNA K AWAY

From the Anna K series , Vol. 2

A tale of love and loss that spans the globe.

Instead of having a carefree summer, biracial (Korean/White) Anna is sent away from the familiarity of New York, her friends, the past school year’s scandal—and the memories of her dead boyfriend, Alexia Vronsky. While struggling with grief, her shattered self-image, and an uncertain future, Anna attempts to reclaim her summer in Seoul, where she knows only her father and grandmother. Beatrice, Alexia’s cousin, juggles her clingy girlfriend and falling for a California surfer even as she represses her grief. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, plans for an amazing summer party, although Lolly, his girlfriend, is away at theater camp. Steven’s best friend, Dustin, and Kimmie, Lolly’s younger sister, are equally nervous about their first sexual experience together. This sequel to Anna K (2020) contains fewer mentions of luxury brands, and the characters exhibit an increased awareness of the impacts of wealth and socio-economic status. The novel also touches on issues of addiction, sexism, cultural differences, fame, relationships, love, and mental health; in particular, the portrayals of living with grief and redefining the self after a loved one dies shine. Despite some awkward time skips, the humor, pop-culture references, and characters’ distinct voices strengthen the story. Fans of the first novel will enjoy this follow-up, which is also accessible to readers new to Anna and her world. Some major characters are White; Dustin is Black and Jewish, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.

Entertaining. (cast of characters) (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23646-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A creative and compelling read.

A NEON DARKNESS

From the Bright Sessions series , Vol. 2

Robert can manipulate others—but he doesn’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse.

Following The Infinite Noise (2019), this Bright Sessions book tells the origin story of Damien, ne Robert, one of the podcast’s antagonists. When the book opens, Robert is an 18-year-old high school dropout and White boy with no family but all the material resources he could ever need. He has the power to make people do what he wants, or more accurately, to want the same things he wants. After arriving in Los Angeles, he falls in with a slightly older group of Unusuals with various powers who take him under their wing. Shippen combines an exciting plot with diverse characters—such as Neon, who is Black and queer, and Indah, who is Indonesian, Muslim, and lesbian—who defy stereotypes. As the group tangles with a shady organization that has kidnapped their friend, they also realize that the affection they feel for Robert might not be real. Robert’s emotional arc is interesting and unusual—he wants to be a good person, but he is selfish, manipulative, and unwilling to change. He is sympathetic while also being pitiful and contemptible and far too uncool to be an antihero. This may be the best Bright Sessions content yet as well as an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with this world.

A creative and compelling read. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-29754-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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