Not up to the standards of Peyton's best.



With this book, the 86-year-old Peyton celebrates her 70th year as a published author.

For his 17th birthday, in 1921, white upper-class Eton student Antony Sylvester asks his father for an airplane. No one knows how his father makes his riches, but Antony and his deaf and blind sister, Helena, live in splendor on a palatial estate, Lockwood Hall, with an army of servants. Antony gets his plane, but only Lily, the 13-year-old daughter of the estate's head gardener, will dare go up in it with him. Antony then involves her in a complicated scheme to throw a house party in his father's absence, during which Helena drowns. Antony's father returns, murders a policeman, then forces Antony to fly him to France. Just when this melodrama is gathering steam, it falls apart entirely: Antony's father is never heard from again, the house is sold, Antony fumbles about trying to gain employment. Lily grows into an adult who never stops carrying a torch for wet, unambitious Antony. Peyton's writing is as smooth as ever; her evocation of English society and the early days of flight are all spot-on, but Antony's both unlikable and strangely powerless. Lily's more inspiring, but very little of the book is told from her perspective, and her continued adoration of Antony as she ages feels off.

Not up to the standards of Peyton's best. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-08160-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: David Fickling/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Inspiring and heartwarming.


From the Most Likely series , Vol. 1

The future is female: Her name is President Diffenderfer.

Best friends since kindergarten, Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha tackle their senior year with great aplomb in Watson’s debut. When their senior rite of passage, carving one’s name into the jungle gym at a local park, is threatened by a city council that wants to demolish the park, the girls rally to save the place where they became friends. This is far from their only problem: Though each is talented, they struggle this year with emotional, academic, social, and financial issues. Latinx artist Ava, who lives with depression, desires to find her birth mother and attend art school against her mother’s wishes; white cross-country athlete CJ, who is self-conscious about her body, can’t crack the SATs, so she strengthens her college application by volunteering with disabled children; biracial (black/white) student journalist Jordan lies about her age to interview a handsome councilman’s aide, and a mutual crush develops; STEM-focused white lesbian Martha, named for her ancestor Martha Washington, worries that her family can’t afford MIT. Over the course of the year, the friends weather obstacles and realize the power of their friendship. Their relationship prepares one of the girls to become president of the United States, and the twist ending will come as a surprise. The characters are superbly drawn; portrayed as whole people, the various elements of their identities are not the entirety of who they are.

Inspiring and heartwarming. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45483-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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