Imaginative characters that powerfully tap into myth.




With a world in flux, a teenage girl looks for answers from quarreling deities in this YA fantasy sequel.

Book I of the Waterwight series takes place a few years after The Event, a cataclysmic natural disaster that left strange effects in its wake, such as people and animals changing forms. Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, discovers that she can fly; with help from often dreamlike figures (like Orville, a talking, winged Francophone frog), she saves a village of children. In Book II, moments after healing a toxic ocean, Celeste finds herself transformed into a dove. Two black ravens escort her into the clouds and to the old and tired god Odin, who wants her help to investigate what’s happening below and report back. Meanwhile, stragglers—some human, some distinctly odd—join the villagers, whose transformations and special powers are fluctuating. They face a new danger, according to Noor, a giant dragonfly, thanks to a dispute between Odin and his brother Kumugwe, the sea god. Events converge underwater when Celeste visits Kumugwe after escaping from Odin. She hopes to find her real parents. So do two sisters with a complicated history (one was rescued and raised by Kumugwe) who go in search of their scientist parents and their undersea lab. A great wrong must be righted in this hunt for the truth. McHargue (Hunt for Red Meat, 2017, etc.) again effectively offers images from dreamscape and myth in this intriguing follow-up novel. Though there are some standard YA tropes—post-apocalypse; teenage girl with special powers—the author goes beyond the expected with her original, striking characters. Merts, for example, has three heads atop a two-armed body; speaks only in haiku; and moves through the trees via hair braided into a long, prehensile whip. The plot is fast-moving, with action, danger, emotion, and moral choices; beneath all of this is a subtle environmental message embodied in the two scientists’ meddling with nature. Given her complicated narratives, McHargue could have helped readers with a prefatory summary of Book I, although she does provide backstory in the exposition.

Imaginative characters that powerfully tap into myth.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9969711-2-6

Page Count: 277

Publisher: Strack Press LLC

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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