THE TIME TRIALS

A resonant blend of teen drama and SF adventure.

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In this YA novel, four disparate schoolmates must team up to survive a deadly contest involving time traveling.

A few years have passed since Finn Mallory lost his parents to a car accident. Now 16 years old, Finn is on full scholarship at an elite boarding school. Most of his fellow students look down on him. One exception is the school’s social queen, Everly Caldwell, who is also an orphan. Unfortunately, Finn mistakes her friendliness for ridicule and rebuffs her overtures—a self-sabotage that recurs throughout the story. Finn and Everly are soon thrown together as part of the school’s Young Historians Club, an extracurricular group run by the girl’s grandfather. There are only two other members: confident go-getter Valerie Konrad and Finn’s high-functioning autistic roommate, Edison Pellegrin. Together, the Young Historians will compete in the Time Trials—a secretive contest that sees teams from four schools travel back in time and interact with history. The past itself cannot be changed, yet the trials are not without risk to the participants. Injury is entirely possible—even death. Can Finn come to terms with his own inner demons, or will the trials be his undoing? The McConnells, a husband-and-wife team, structure an engaging, third-person narrative, primarily from Finn’s point of view but occasionally moving to that of one of the other protagonists. The prose is polished and the dialogue unobtrusive, allowing the characters to stand out. The authors present an unusual take on time travel and causality. The trials’ organizers (the voyeuristic, coldhearted timekeepers) offer plenty of intrigue along with steampunk vibes, while the central tenet—that history is inviolable save for how it affects the individual—is a master stroke, especially when combined with issues of teenage trauma and self-esteem. In bringing these themes to light, grunge guitar–playing Finn is a natural viewpoint character. At times, he fluctuates too wildly and quickly toward self-defeatism, but this is representative of a more general heightening of character traits. (The exaggeration is more evident in some players than others.) Though well executed thematically, the book’s ending is too abrupt. Nonetheless, adolescent readers will love the journey and thrill at the prospect of a sequel.

A resonant blend of teen drama and SF adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-946501-69-1

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Tiny Fox Press LLC

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

DIVINE RIVALS

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

INDIVISIBLE

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

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