Esme may be witty, but when it comes to fulfilling her destiny, Buffy she is not.


From the Babysitters Coven series , Vol. 1

A fashion-minded babysitter in small-town Kansas discovers her magical powers and the responsibility that comes with them.

Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl can’t explain the strange things happening to her until the new girl, Cassandra Heaven, reveals to Esme that they both have powers. The girls bumble their way through beginning spellcasting until Brian, the school football coach, explains that they are Sitters: girls (typically babysitters) predestined to protect humanity from interdimensional monsters. Brian is their mentor, or Counsel. The characters themselves draw the obvious comparison to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“So basically, we’re like Slayers, and you’re our Watcher”), but despite basic worldbuilding parallels, the novel misses the mark if it’s attempting to fill the cult classic’s large shoes. The tongue-in-cheek humor never manages to find a balance with the purportedly high-stakes plot. To debut novelist Williams’ credit, much of the humor lands; her unusual descriptions delight (Esme’s hands shake “like cold Chihuahuas,” while “nice” is “the chicken Caesar wrap of compliments”), as do Esme’s and her best friend Janis’ daily wardrobe inspirations. However, the explanation behind Esme’s powers comes late, and even as the conflict heightens, readers will struggle to buy in. Many secondary characters feel hollow, including Esme’s crush (Cassandra’s brother, Dion). Esme is presumably white, Cassandra identifies as Mexican, and Janis and Brian are black.

Esme may be witty, but when it comes to fulfilling her destiny, Buffy she is not. (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-70737-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes.


From the Six Crimson Cranes series , Vol. 1

Girl meets magic. Hijinks ensue.

Shiori’anma, Princess of Kiata and eldest daughter of Emperor Hanariho, is the intrepid protagonist in this folktale retelling. About to turn 17 and be married off to a third-rank barbarian lord, Shiori desperately looks for ways out of the engagement. Her emerging talents in forbidden magic and a run-in with a young shape-shifting dragon help to pass the time before she is doomed to relocate to the cold North. Things take an even worse turn, however, when she uncovers her stepmother’s secrets. As a consequence, her six brothers are cursed into assuming the form of cranes by day. Shiori is whisked away and coerced into silence, for every word that escapes her lips will mean the death of one of her brothers. She must learn to survive on her own and use her wits and hard-won experience to save both her family and country. Readers here revisit the East Asian–inspired world established in Lim’s The Blood of Stars duology. Despite a few hiccups in the logic of the magic, the author cleverly maintains the basic structure of this well-known European folktale type while weaving in rich elements of Asian mythology, including dragon pearls and the goddess of the moon. The exploration of complicated family dynamics is a particular strength, especially the challenging of the evil stepmother cliché.

Part exciting adventure, part thoughtful coming-of-age novel, this story retells and overturns familiar tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30091-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.


Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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