Unusual and highly engaging

DRIFT & DAGGER

In an alternate 1850s, a boy with no magic struggles to survive in a world dominated by it.

Virtually everyone in Kulper’s world has some form of magic or is at least affected by magic. Those with Talents earn appreciation, while Others, people with true magical gifts, can become prized members of their communities. Mal, however, is a “blank,” a rare, feared person who not only has no magic, but one upon whom magic has no effect whatever. Born on Prince Island, his best friend is Essie, who will one day become the famed Roe witch and help to control the weather for the whaling and merchant ships. However, Essie betrays Mal’s secret to the islanders, forcing him to flee. He teams up with Boone, a shady dealer in magical items. When Boone learns of the shar, a long-lost knife with the power to cut magic out of people, the two begin a desperate quest to acquire it and the riches it represents. Now 18, Mal wants revenge on Essie and intends to use the shar on her. Kulper creates a vivid, richly detailed alternative world grounded in history but with the added magical twist. Instead of witches, blanks are feared and persecuted. Characterizations, particularly the angry, afflicted Mal, pop as vividly as the alternative setting, offering readers an absorbing experience.

Unusual and highly engaging . (Paranormal adventure. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-40453-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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