A muddled sci-fi tale of fast food, aliens, and friendship.


Robi's Flying Saucer Drive-In

In this YA sci-fi debut novel, 14-year-old Saffron befriends a classmate who turns out to be far from home indeed.

When Saffron’s parents buy a fast-food restaurant called Robi’s Flying Saucer Drive-In, she’s excited to tackle her first job and save all the tips she can for the ninth-grade class trip to Paris—that is, if her parents ever agree to let her go. Saffron likes the work and her co-workers: Pakistani ex-model Carmen, potato-peeling delinquent Ronnie, kindly Mrs. Imbeault, the French cook, “one of those people that makes you think the world is really all right.” At her all-girls Roman Catholic school, Saffron enjoys art class and astronomy, both of which she takes with new girl Clair Villeneuve. Clair is a white-blonde, her skin practically translucent, and she initially claims to be from Frankfurt, Germany, saying her mother works for the traveling carnival set up on the outskirts of town, by the nickel refinery. But when the carnival leaves suddenly, Clair remains behind, and Saffron’s family takes her in. That’s when Saffron learns that Clair is no teenage girl but a centuries-old alien who harbors a dream that involves Earth. Mrs. Imbeault also isn’t what she seems—and both women may be in danger. While the reader expects Clair’s extraterrestrial narrative to shape the book, Winsa spends equal time on true-to-life but less compelling topics: Saffron’s family dynamics, her name (“I had the blockbuster name Saffron that did not suit me at all. My mother had named me after a spice”), the tomato harvest in her hometown of Antoninio, her plan to visit Paris, her classwork (she decides that astronomy is her favorite subject: “The universe is the last frontier”). The author’s prose is solid, but the subject matter jumps around within paragraphs, shifting in tense and time. A pivotal plot point involving Clair and her ambitions takes place in Saffron’s absence, and Winsa makes an odd choice for the tale’s ending.

A muddled sci-fi tale of fast food, aliens, and friendship.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2016


Page Count: 159

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and...

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From the Hazel Wood series , Vol. 1

A ferocious young woman is drawn into her grandmother’s sinister fairy-tale realm in this pitch-black fantasy debut.

Once upon a time, Althea Proserpine achieved a cult celebrity with Tales from the Hinterland, a slim volume of dark, feminist fairy tales, but Alice has never met her reclusive grandmother nor visited her eponymous estate. Instead, she has spent her entire 17 years on the run from persistent bad luck, relying only on her mother, Ella. Now Althea is dead and Ella has been kidnapped, and the Hinterland seems determined to claim Alice as well. The Hinterland—and the Stories that animate it—appear as simultaneously wondrous and horrific, dreamlike and bloody, lyrical and creepy, exquisitely haunting and casually, brutally cruel. White, petite, and princess-pretty Alice is a difficult heroine to like in her stormy (and frequently profane) narration, larded with pop-culture and children’s-literature references and sprinkled with wry humor; her deceptive fragility conceals a scary toughness, icy hostility, and simmering rage. Despite her tentative friendship (and maybe more) with Ellery Finch, a wealthy biracial, brown-skinned geek for all things Althea Proserpine, any hints of romance are negligible compared to the powerful relationships among women: mothers and daughters, sisters and strangers, spinner and stories; ties of support and exploitation and love and liberation.

Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and hard-won self-knowledge shine unquenched. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14790-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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