Striking dreamscapes make this tale about a heroine who can fly a fine first outing in a planned series.

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Waterwight

From the The Waterwight Series series , Vol. 1

In this YA adventure, a girl orphaned by global cataclysm searches for a new home, encountering talking animals and discovering she possesses special powers.

It’s been three or four years since The Event, a huge natural disaster with unnatural consequences that no one wants to talk about, including the adults at the orphanage where Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, now lives. After a strange dream, Celeste decides to run away; in her journey, she meets helpful talking cats and dogs and the dangerous Shifter, an evil being who can take different forms. She also discovers an amazing ability: she can defy gravity, first with leaps and bounds, then by actually flying. From a stony-visaged mountain she calls Old Man Massive, Celeste learns she “must find the key to stopping the advance of the big water” lying southward. This is no normal ocean; it’s pink, gelatinous, reeking, destructive, and still spreading. Celeste flies across, getting a boost from Orville, a talking, winged, French-speaking frog who spoke to her in dreams. On the other side lies a village of children, survivors who have also developed strange powers, controlled by a mysterious Overleader, who punishes rule breakers. As Celeste works to find the key and save her new friends, she will face dangerous tests of her courage and resolve. McHargue (“Miss?”, 2013) taps into dreamscapes with their myth/dream logic very effectively in this entertaining novel. The section where Celeste gets trapped in a seductive fantasy castle—her parents alive, only her favorite foods on the table, every room full of toys and games—is powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Post-apocalyptic YA fiction can be unrelentingly grim, but McHargue brings wit and warmth to this account as well as psychological insights, particularly in developing the Overleader’s character. There’s perhaps too much back and forth from the village to the mountain (Celeste begins to seem like a commuter flight), but the novel’s charms overcome this defect. Readers should want to know what happens next in the Waterwight world.

Striking dreamscapes make this tale about a heroine who can fly a fine first outing in a planned series. 

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9969711-0-2

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Alpha Peak

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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.

THE RESCUE

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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