Although the pace could be faster, all in all this is an enjoyable read with a cast of diverse and likable characters.



From the Seafarer's Kiss series , Vol. 2

Ragna always dreamed of sailing the high seas.

When Jarl Haakon sends his men to raid her village for children who, like Ragna, have magical maps on their skin, she escapes, but her family is killed. Vowing revenge, she takes over a ship and crew with the help of her lover, a female mermaid named Ersel. Young, female, and inexperienced, Ragna is unsure of her ability to lead, something she is sure her all-male crew is waiting to use to their advantage. That is until Ragna and her men land on the shores of a country ruled by a queer, brown-skinned, biracial female jarl named Honor, who gives her a much-needed lesson in being a powerful, female leader and equal partner. In this haunting novel set in a world inspired by Norse mythology, Ember (The Seafarer’s Kiss, 2017, etc.) refreshingly places a number of queer and gender nonbinary characters at the forefront, all rendered with nuanced care. Although Ragna’s development rings true, the prose itself sometimes is bogged down with too much of her inner monologue, repetitiously spelling out her insecurities. Ember’s writing is at its best in action and romance sequences, both of which, thankfully, are plentiful.

Although the pace could be faster, all in all this is an enjoyable read with a cast of diverse and likable characters. (glossary, content warnings) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945053-70-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Duet

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality.


Two teenage girls—Lena and Campbell—come together following a football game night gone wrong.

Campbell, who is white and new to Atlanta, now attends the school where Lena, who is black, is a queen bee. At a game between McPherson High and their rival, a racist slur leads to fights, and shots are fired. The unlikely pair are thrown together as they try to escape the dangers on campus only to find things are even more perilous on the outside; a police blockade forces them to walk through a dangerous neighborhood toward home. En route, a peaceful protest turns into rioting, and the presence of police sets off a clash with protestors with gruesome consequences. The book attempts to tackle racial injustice in America by offering two contrasting viewpoints via narrators of different races. However, it portrays black characters as violent and criminal and the white ones as excusably ignorant and subtly racist, seemingly redeemed by moments when they pause to consider their privileges and biases. Unresolved story arcs, underdeveloped characters, and a jumpy plot that tries to pack too much into too small a space leave the story lacking. This is not a story of friendship but of how trauma can forge a bond—albeit a weak and questionable one—if only for a night.

An unpolished grab bag of incidents that tries to make a point about racial inequality. (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7889-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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