A reading experience not to be missed—or forgotten

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Two girls from very different backgrounds find autonomy, strength, and identity as they fight against corporate greed and medical corruption.

Gemma was born to rich and powerful parents. Lyra was made in a lab. Both white girls have spent their lives protected behind walls: Gemma, under her parents’ watchful eyes, and Lyra, under the care of nurses at the Haven Institute. The latter has always known she’s a replica, a clone created by doctors from human stem cells. The heavily guarded Haven Institute’s activities are shrouded in mystery and speculation, and when an explosion destroys the facility, both girls’ carefully formed worlds topple in the aftermath. Events unfold quickly as Gemma and Lyra learn they’re not who they thought they were, that the truth goes much deeper than either ever thought. The dual narrative is presented as two books in one; it’s up to readers to decide how to proceed: read each girl’s story separately or in alternating chapters. There are very few characters of color: Caelum, another replica and key secondary character, is described as “mixed race”; Gemma’s Latina best friend has two high-powered moms. Deep-rooted racial and ethnic inequality is hinted at in the “birthers,” the dark-skinned women who carry and give birth to replicated babies and don’t speak English. Gemma’s fatness is a source of embarrassment, but, unusually, she grows emotionally without losing weight.

A reading experience not to be missed—or forgotten . (Science fiction. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-239416-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A creative and compelling read.

A NEON DARKNESS

From the Bright Sessions series , Vol. 2

Robert can manipulate others—but he doesn’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse.

Following The Infinite Noise (2019), this Bright Sessions book tells the origin story of Damien, ne Robert, one of the podcast’s antagonists. When the book opens, Robert is an 18-year-old high school dropout and White boy with no family but all the material resources he could ever need. He has the power to make people do what he wants, or more accurately, to want the same things he wants. After arriving in Los Angeles, he falls in with a slightly older group of Unusuals with various powers who take him under their wing. Shippen combines an exciting plot with diverse characters—such as Neon, who is Black and queer, and Indah, who is Indonesian, Muslim, and lesbian—who defy stereotypes. As the group tangles with a shady organization that has kidnapped their friend, they also realize that the affection they feel for Robert might not be real. Robert’s emotional arc is interesting and unusual—he wants to be a good person, but he is selfish, manipulative, and unwilling to change. He is sympathetic while also being pitiful and contemptible and far too uncool to be an antihero. This may be the best Bright Sessions content yet as well as an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with this world.

A creative and compelling read. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-29754-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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