An eye roll–worthy beach read.

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When an actress is fired, the 16-year-old dog trainer on set fills in.

Ellie Quinn longs to be a professional animal trainer like her father but is often stuck petsitting for celebrities like the diva Kate Montgomery, who is starring in Born in Beverly Hills, a spinoff television series based on her previous role. When Kate’s on-screen sidekick is let go, Ellie reluctantly becomes the temporary substitute actress. Unconvincingly, her performance is well received by the show’s producers, resulting in tension among her, Kate, and the show’s two love interests: Logan Canfield, Kate’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, and Cam Rodriguez, the sweet newcomer. Ellie is torn—if the show fails, her father will sell his half of Animal Stars Inc. so they can leave Hollywood and move back to Salinas to live on her ailing grandfather’s lettuce farm with her bitter aunt and overwhelming cousins. But ensuring the show’s success means taking part in uncomfortable fake-dating publicity stunts—and Ellie often fails to stand up for herself when pushed into difficult situations. The story’s strongest attributes, such as Cam’s opinions about on-screen portrayals of Latinx characters and Ellie’s attempts to make her own choices, are unfortunately unable to compensate for the rushed romance and many unsympathetic characters. Major characters are assumed white, except for Cam who is Mexican American.

An eye roll–worthy beach read. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68442-306-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

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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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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