A layered, empathetic examination of the ghosts inside all girls’ lives, full of historical realism and timeless feeling.

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THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL

A ghost girl’s narration weaves her own story with that of a tenacious orphan in World War II–era Chicago.

Teenage Frankie’s story is no more or less tragic than that of any other young person at her German Catholic orphanage: That is, it’s heartbreaking. She and her two siblings have a father who brings them gifts but claims he can’t afford to take them home and who eventually abandons them for a new family. But Frankie’s tenacious grip on hope draws attention from both her fellow orphans, including a beautiful, gentle boy with whom she shares an illicit prewar romance, and Pearl, the book’s ghost narrator, whose own tragic story slowly unfurls alongside Frankie’s. Pearl’s narration elevates an already-poignant story to a complex, bittersweet examination of why “girls were punished so hard for their love, so hard, hard enough to break them.” There is no escape from pain or death in this narrative—from the wolf waiting behind every door—but there is the suggestion that it’s worth the risk to open them all wide anyway. Pearl and Frankie are white (Frankie’s parents were Italian immigrants), but many secondary characters, memorably an African American ghost named Marguerite and a Chinese love interest for Pearl, are racially diverse.

A layered, empathetic examination of the ghosts inside all girls’ lives, full of historical realism and timeless feeling. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-231764-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.

THUNDERHEAD

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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