MAYDAY

An uneven read that ultimately misses its mark.

Even as her own soul hovers in the “middle” space, her body barely clinging to life in a hospital room, 18-year-old Crow’s thoughts are consumed with protecting her sister.

When given the chance to go on a “walkabout”—an opportunity to revisit her life and make things right—Crow learns that there may have been another side to the people and events that defined her. The only catch is that she must return as someone other than herself. It’s an interesting-enough premise, and the first half of the book will likely live up to readers’ expectations. A skillfully crafted and strikingly bleak Minnesota is the perfect backdrop for Crow’s desperate attempts to save her sister from their stepfather’s lascivious eye. Their mother’s unwillingness to acknowledge this potential threat is both maddening and chillingly believable. Unfortunately, the second half of the novel falls disappointingly short. Here, Crow’s gender-bending return to her past as a young man muddies the waters and distracts from the plot, as does a disturbing side story about Crow’s relationship with her friend Basil. Frequent references to Crow’s passion for philosophy are not followed through in the text, and Crow’s obsession with protecting her sister never allows adequate room for Crow to truly discover herself.

An uneven read that ultimately misses its mark. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-14-241229-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

STAY GOLD

Several yards short of a touchdown.

A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

THE LIFE BELOW

From the Final Six series , Vol. 2

Breezy, silly, unremarkable fun.

This sequel to The Final Six (2018) raises the stakes for its spacefaring teen astronauts.

Naomi Ardalan and the other Final Six are on their journey to colonize Jupiter’s moon Europa, leading the way for humans to eventually leave a dying Earth. Naomi is the only one in the group who knows that the leaders of the International Space Training Camp are keeping the truth from them, and it is down to her to discover whether there is alien life on Europa before they land. Back on Earth, and unbeknownst to the crew, left-behind recruit Leo Danieli works with genius doctor Greta Wagner to launch a solo mission to intercept and join Naomi’s ship in order to bring them news that not only is there definitely life on Europa, but they are set to land in its most dangerous zone. As the two missions and alternating narratives converge, the unthinkable happens—and everything changes. Fast-paced and plot-driven, the novel decidedly veers into science fiction horror territory with plenty of scares that readers willing to suspend disbelief and embrace the teenagers-in-space setup are likely to enjoy. The syrupy romance between Leo and Naomi continues, and a new layer is added to the story with a frustratingly too-brief examination of colonization and first contact. Naomi is Iranian American, Leo is Italian, and the human cast is international.

Breezy, silly, unremarkable fun. (Science fiction horror. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265897-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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