Plot and pacing could be tighter, but packed with vivid cultural scenery, this ambitious debut offers readers a journey...

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A PSALM FOR LOST GIRLS

Tess da Costa was believed to work miracles but lost street cred after failing to find Ana, a child abductee; when, months after Tess dies, Ana’s found alive, Tess appears slated for sainthood—unless her sister, Callie, can stop it.

Callie, white and wrapped in grief and anger, has no compassion to spare for Tess’ followers, desperately coping with troubles of their own, or for Tess’ Puerto Rican boyfriend, Danny, whom she recruits in her crusade. Callie’s failing in school and at war with her hospital-receptionist single mom. Her feelings for Tess (and the church) are complicated. If Tess, 17, was the angel, Callie, 16, felt like her demonic twin. Tess’ journal, excerpted throughout, reveals that being cast as saintly was no picnic, either. Not all plot elements mesh neatly. Callie and Danny’s hunt for Ana’s abductor, a plot thread explored partly from Ana’s point of view, has gravitas; however resolved, a child abduction leaves lasting scars. While Callie’s family history takes up a fair chunk of plot real estate, she’s the story’s beating heart—scrappy, resentful, funny, and, above all, observant of her hardscrabble, working-class southeastern Massachusetts town and its denizens. Of Portuguese, Latino, and Irish descent (but not Cape Verdean), with strong cultural and religious (Roman Catholic) immigrant ties, they’ve struggled economically since the mills closed.

Plot and pacing could be tighter, but packed with vivid cultural scenery, this ambitious debut offers readers a journey worth taking. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54525-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss...

TELL ME THREE THINGS

Jessie’s unassimilated grief over her mother’s death makes her dad’s abrupt marriage to Rachel, a wealthy widow he met online, and their subsequent move from Chicago to her mansion in Los Angeles feel like betrayal.

Rachel’s son wants nothing to do with Jessie. Her first week at his private school is agonizing. When she gets an email from “Somebody Nobody,” claiming to be a male student in the school and offering to act as her “virtual spirit guide,” Jessie’s suspicious, but she accepts—she needs help. SN’s a smart, funny, supportive guide, advising her whom to befriend and whom to avoid while remaining stubbornly anonymous. Meanwhile, Jessie makes friends, is picked as study partner by the coolest guy in AP English, and finds a job in a bookstore, working with the owner’s son, Liam. But questions abound. Why is Liam’s girlfriend bullying her? What should she do about SN now that she’s crushing on study-partner Ethan? Readers will have answers long before Jessie does. It’s overfamiliar territory: a protagonist unaware she’s gorgeous, oblivious to male admiration; a jealous, mean-girl antagonist; a secret admirer, easily identified. It’s the authentic depiction of grief—how Jessie and other characters respond to loss, get stuck, struggle to break through—devoid of cliché, that will keep readers engaged. Though one of Jessie’s friends has a Spanish surname, rich, beautiful, mostly white people are the order of the day.

Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss when life itself means inevitable change. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Slow off the mark and gratuitously violent but cooking with (nerve) gas by the end.

THE TRIGGER MECHANISM

From the Camp Valor series , Vol. 2

With help from a reclusive billionaire, teen supersoldiers tackle a cyberterrorist in this sequel to Camp Valor (2018).

The main suspense comes from wondering when the chases and firefights are finally going to start. Traumatized by the discovery that he’s been duped into mowing down a crowd of real pedestrians in what he thought was a virtual truck, online gamer Jalen Rose is recruited by Valorian agent and co-protagonist Wyatt to join him in an unauthorized mission to find the instigator, Encyte. There are suspects aplenty. Their patron, tech tycoon John Darsie, points them toward one possibility: his own employee Julie Chen, a brilliant (not to mention “tough and a little boyish, but cute”) 14-year-old gamer and software designer. Despite a series of cyber exploits, including a high-casualty riot fueled by pheromones, there are so many distracting subplots—notably the hunt for a traitor from the first volume, the arrival of a government official who orders the camp shut down because she can’t see the value of a cadre of secretly trained child warriors (go figure), and a developing relationship between Jalen and Julie—that the pedal doesn’t really hit the metal until some time after the real villain makes a tardy first entrance. Jalen is African American and Wyatt is white.

Slow off the mark and gratuitously violent but cooking with (nerve) gas by the end. (Paramilitary thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-08825-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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