A slice-of-life glimpse at a boy trying to mean something in the universe.

READ REVIEW

EARTH TO CHARLIE

Charlie (not Charles) Dickens seeks UFOs and avoids life in small-town Montana.

Charlie’s mother disappeared two years ago. Prompted by her claims beforehand, he’s certain she was abducted by aliens who’ll eventually U-turn to collect him. Now a freshman, he has no mother, no mothership, and no friend in sight save for an obese, housebound neighbor, whose body is described in derogatory terms, and a three-legged dog named Tickles. Aggressively bullied (imagine what small minds do with the name Dickens) and openly disliked at school, Charlie scurries under the radar until Seth sweeps into town. Charlie can’t understand why charismatic Seth wants to talk to him and initially retreats before being lured into the fold of friendship. Charlie is eventually forced to look skyward and wonder what’s really missing—his mother or his perspective? The prospect of aliens appearing at any second has its own brand of fantastic intrigue, but the reader’s omniscient awareness as Charlie grapples with navigating intimacy and self-respect is eons more emotionally substantive. The town appears entirely white. One character is gay—an important plot point treated with subtlety. A noncogent grandmother and alcoholic father add a layer that doesn’t detract from the coming-of-age perspective. One neatly tied plot point after another at the end feels a little crowded compared to the preceding pace but shouldn’t deter readers.

A slice-of-life glimpse at a boy trying to mean something in the universe. (Realistic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1952-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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