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GIMMICKS AND GLAMOUR

A relatable fantasy weaving in real-life issues.

San Diego high school senior Ashly Harris just wants to play tennis, but the faeries keep ruining it for her.

Her whole life, Ashly has seen mischievous, green-skinned creatures with wings that no one else believes are real. When they play pranks, the humans around Ashly blame her; her supposed bad behavior has earned her poor grades, disqualification from the tennis team, and therapy. So now she lies to make the adults in her life happy, especially her Black dad and white mom, who don’t understand Ashly’s bisexuality either. No wonder she’s “pissed off all the time” and can only be herself around her best friend, Caris. In Ashly’s confessional narration, the occasional turn of phrase is a bit much—it’s hard to imagine a jilted suitor’s face turning “a shade redder than my period blood”—but more often her thoughts provide trenchant observations about her experiences. She describes faerie identity politics as being similar to “being biracial. Everyone wants you to pick a side, but no one wants you on their side.” This is an accessible story with an interesting premise: The fantasy metaphor for Ashly’s adolescent alienation and despair works well and livens up the plot, especially when a revelation draws Ashly into the throes of a faerie war as well as a rewarding queer romance.

A relatable fantasy weaving in real-life issues. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781636794013

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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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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