Off target.

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NO GOOD DEED

A modern-day white teen travels through time and becomes Robin Hood.

Ellie Hudson is a privileged elite archer with Olympic aspirations from present-day America. While competing in Nottingham, England, Ellie follows a strangely dressed man in white into a cave and emerges (inexplicably) in the Middle Ages. The clunkiness starts here: Ellie is nearly apprehended! She escapes! She’s nearly apprehended again! She escapes again! Then Ellie, who is passing for a boy, turns herself in to protect others and manipulates the notorious (but blandly drawn) sheriff of Nottingham into releasing her if she can shoot well enough. Ellie’s talent shines through…and then the awkward pacing takes hold again with occurrences that feel either arbitrary or like filler. Ellie’s aware that her purpose in the past may be to become Robin Hood, but she doesn’t seem particularly interested in assisting the people of Nottingham. Then a plot to assassinate Prince John emerges, threatening the eventual king’s ability to sign the Magna Carta. Connolly avoids the trap of offering a limp, unconvincing rationale for the time travel, but, unexplained, the device is still pretty slim. Couple it with an uneven plot and unconvincing premise, and even a gender-bending, butt-kicking, time-traveling heroine may not be enough to satisfy exacting readers, even if she is Robin Hood.

Off target. (Historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-74393-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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