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TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT

Johnson’s clever debut speaks to Generation Z’s cyberculture by validating online friendships.

Haley Hancock has been texting Martin Nathaniel Munroe II on the daily…but which Martin is it?

Born just a few days apart, both Martin N. Munroe IIs are named after their famously wealthy grandfather. Haley is confident she knows which Martin is the good one because the other one broke her friend’s heart in the eighth grade. One of the Martins begins texting her outside of the history class all three share, and over time, both are surprised to find their banter enjoyable and comforting. But, believing her negative opinions of one cousin will hinder their friendship, Haley decides to stop messaging him. In response, Martin proposes a solution: start over with a clean slate as if they were strangers who met on the internet. By connecting only via cellphone, Haley and Martin find it easy to be honest and vulnerable about all aspects of their lives, including family and friends. The two open up to each other about questions of sexual orientation, and Haley also confides in Martin about her generalized anxiety disorder. Told entirely in chat conversations, the potentially perplexing narrative will be understood by readers who are accustomed to communicating online and reading deeply into text messages. The format does not make space for physical descriptions, and most characters are assumed white.

Johnson’s clever debut speaks to Generation Z’s cyberculture by validating online friendships. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-33546-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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