A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip


From the Ashes of Twilight series , Vol. 2

What ought to be a tense story of discovery after escaping a post-apocalyptic steampunk hellscape is overwhelmed by a bland, unremarkable love triangle.

At the end of Ashes of Twilight (2012), Wren led her fellow coal-mining villagers out of the dome that’s imprisoned them for generations. The outside world is not blazing afire, as their rulers have assured them ever since the comet that sent their people into the domes generations ago, during the Victoria era. Though the sun burns their pale skin, and the fresh air (ridiculously) kills many of the escapees, Wren is determined never to go back. Though the events of the first book ended Wren’s previous wearisome love triangle, never fear: A new charismatic young man appears, along with some other outlandish adventurers, to add ponderous romantic tension. Wren’s ogling of all the boys—“[t]he smooth breadth of their chests, the work of the muscles in the back, the dips and curves in the stomachs and hips”—is endless. She’s not even distracted by the nigh-feral attackers outside the dome: stinky, toothless and speaking in a laughable hillbilly dialect (in coastal Wales, these ruffians deliver such gems as “I’m ah-tellin-ya”).

A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip . (Steampunk. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-64176-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles.


She’s going back in time; he’s going forward; they meet in 1961.

Still raw from her grandmother’s death, 18-year-old Abbi takes comfort in the fact that she is starting her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It’s the perfect place, one where the white narrator can make a fresh start and stay close to the memory of Grandma, who once walked the very same halls. But in her wildest dreams, Abbi never could have imagined just how close the two would be. For reasons she is desperate to understand, Abbi finds herself traveling backward through time, with each new stop providing clues to a mysterious family secret. To add to the intrigue, Abbi discovers she’s not the only time traveler. Will, a handsome white farm boy from 1927, is on his own journey forward through time, and Abbi gradually realizes that Will is not only linked to her family’s past, but also holds the key to her heart—past, present, and future. Though this may provide a quick fix for fans of time-travel romance, the novel fails to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. While Abbi is a likable-enough protagonist, the story meanders, and the dialogue often feels stilted. However, the greatest disappointment is that a potentially delicious romance between Abbi and Will fails to gain any traction for the first two-thirds of the novel.

Without sparks to sustain it, the story fizzles. (Science fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63079-070-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Surprisingly heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-16)


In his final year of high school, Leon must choose between maintaining his comfortable existence or blowing it all up to chase something greater. 

Leon is on track to do nothing extraordinary with his life. He works at the local ice cream shop alongside his best friend, Stan, and hangs out with the screwballs and weirdos that come in. The gang shuns such bourgeois drudgery as the SATs and college applications in favor of typical teenage tomfoolery, but there’s a fine line between a smart, bored kid and a burnout. Leon is the former. When a few moments of chance bring him and popular girl Paige together, Leon begins to shake out of his slacker stupor. This is a particularly smart and sweet teenage love story, refusing to rely on burning passion or overwrought sentiment. There’s an emotional maturity in the way Selzer draws Leon and Paige’s courtship. It is by far the best part of the book. Less engaging are the peripheral characters, particularly Stan, a kid who believes that he’s the devil himself. The character and his influence on the story just don’t work, and time spent with him feels wasted when it could be spent elsewhere. Leon’s journey to personal responsibility is another topic well-tackled, making this an engaging, character-driven piece with several pros that mightily outweigh the cons. 

Surprisingly heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0104-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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