A moody conclusion to an often compelling, sometimes messy SF page-turner.

THE FIRST 7

From the Last 8 series , Vol. 2

Seven months have passed since the Last Teenagers on Earth incapacitated the brutal Hostemn alien threat.

Leaving behind a devastated, barren Earth via spaceship, the diverse group of teens decides on a little intergalactic exploration to escape from their traumatic post-invasion lives. A distress signal coming from Earth cuts their journey short, and soon, Clover and friends end up back on a seemingly renewed Earth looking for survivors. Their return, however, results in more complications. Otherworldly crystal clusters have sprung up, corrupting the land—as well as the group’s resident alien friend, Andy—and an invisible barrier prevents them from leaving. When Clover and the gang come across a colony of human survivors led by the mysterious Castor, their search for answers promises to sever the bonds that once united them. Pohl’s (The Last 8, 2019, etc.) conclusion to this benign duology succeeds in mapping out meaningful character development beyond the story’s main protagonist, Clover. As a result, this sequel makes for a more engaging read than the first installment. Moreover, Clover’s struggles with depression and PTSD and her identity as aromantic underscore the novel’s most poignant passages, and the author does an admirable job of addressing these topics with sensitivity that’s just short of cloying. Awkward pacing, repetitive language, and inconsistencies in characterization prevent the novel from achieving true greatness, but there’s much to appreciate here.

A moody conclusion to an often compelling, sometimes messy SF page-turner. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7346-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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