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TOGETHER WE MAKE TEAL

A cerebral and engrossing work of speculative fiction.

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In Ho’s debut YA SF novel, a teenager struggles with mental illness while performing at the highest level of a popular gaming competition.

In the near future, esports have become a major pastime, with specially designed, community-based fantasy characters called Combatants participating in fighting competitions. The biggest competition of them all is called the Fraye—a national tournament with players from all 50 states—and Daylark is the group, called a Guilde, tasked with creating Hawaii’s Combatant. Luka Lan is a recent high school graduate and merely a fan of esports when he learns that he’s won a place as the fifth member of Daylark. He becomes a local celebrity almost overnight. The creators in the most prestigious Guildes receive “scholarships to universities and job opportunities with companies like Disney and Nintendo.” But being a member of Daylark isn’t a walk in the park, especially for someone like Luka, who suffers from symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Almost immediately after he joins the Guilde, he begins suffering from delusions, which make it difficult for him to know what’s real and what isn’t. Luka struggles to keep his condition from affecting the Guilde’s work—but then he learns that his condition might be the reason he was chosen in the first place. Ho’s prose is tense and often dreamy, painting surreal images from both the gaming world and from Luka’s own psyche: “The games surrounding me are no longer comforting. They turn into pictures that speak of violence and blood, changing the comforts of my childhood into strange images drawn by a demon.” There’s a sword-and-sorcery element to the gaming, but the book explores issues of content creation and workplace dynamics in a way that one might not expect from the story’s outset. It’s an intense psychological thriller that also presents a sympathetic treatment of mental illness. In addition, it’s an inspired choice to set the story in a world where so much is imagined or generated, which feels, in some ways, like a reflection of our increasingly digital world.

A cerebral and engrossing work of speculative fiction.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2020

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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  • New York Times Bestseller

A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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