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THE BOY LOST IN THE MAZE

Thoughtful and well executed.

A contemporary teen finds common ground with an ancient Greek hero in this work by U.K. Children’s Laureate Coelho.

Seventeen-year-old Londoner Theo has grown up for the most part without a father figure and often feels this absence in his day-to-day life: “Manhood’s become a rock / I cannot lift alone.” While learning about Greek mythology in English class, Theo finds solace in the tale of Theseus and his labors, and so he makes Theseus’ quest to find his father the focus of his project. Theo receives encouragement for his series of poems from kind Mr. Addo, his teacher. He also begins the search for his own lost father, leading to parallel storylines: “Just like him / I’ll map my wrath / by searching for my father’s path.” As Theo experiences his own versions of Theseus’ adventures, he constructs his understanding of manhood. Additionally, growing up with a white mother, he confronts the complex reality of his Black and biracial identity, adding another layer to his turmoil. Written in verse with nods to the classic Choose Your Own Adventure genre, this clever, well-paced novel leans into its interwoven format. While some parts might occasionally feel opaque to readers who are unfamiliar with Theseus, the general theme of grappling with what it is to be a man is compelling and clear. The tale of the Minotaur is relayed in a particularly refreshing and poignant way. Milner’s moving ink illustrations bolster an already vivid story.

Thoughtful and well executed. (author’s note) (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9781536236415

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

A standing ovation.

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Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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