A commendable, gifted protagonist who bravely confronts both villains and adolescence.

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In this YA thriller, a teen with the ability to see the face of a killer or an assailant through a victim’s eyes remains in danger of the culprit spotting her as well.

In many ways, Carlie Henson is a typical 15-year-old. Though she’s endured lows, like her parents’ divorce, she’s more than content with handsome, doting boyfriend Dillon Daniels. But a decade ago, she displayed an unusual ability: She saw the victim of an unsolved murder on TV and, via the eyes, knew who the killer was. She gave a detailed description to her mother, Linda Cooper, a police sketch artist. This frighteningly linked Carlie to the predator, who nearly succeeded in abducting her. She now lives with her overprotective mom, who fears what might happen if Carlie looks into a victim’s eyes again. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the teen does after realizing that a recent unidentified body is one of her friends from school. The strong possibility that the murderer, whose face she’s now seen, will come looking for her is a constant threat and could be perilous for Linda, Dillon, and Carlie’s friend Jenna Bradshaw. Furthermore, Carlie learns that the eyes of a person who’s suffered an attack will likewise show her a perpetrator—who’s no less menacing. Supernatural faculty notwithstanding, Ward (Glimpses of Wilderness, 2017, etc.) deftly underlines a teenager’s sometimes-turbulent life. Carlie and Dillion’s relationship is the book’s richest element; there’s an unmistakable physical attraction, but it’s coupled with genuine affection from both sides. Carlie has her flaws (using her power covertly requires the occasional lie) but is empathetic. For example, she holds an impromptu Sweet Sixteen party for Jenna after hearing that her friend missed out on one. Details on Carlie’s ability are vague though not abstruse; it’s abundantly clear she’s seeing the culprit’s face. There’s still mystery, too, as Carlie, even if seeing an individual, doesn’t necessarily know his or her identity. Still, attempts at defining her power produce blunders: Multiple characters, including a therapist, erroneously call it telekinesis.

A commendable, gifted protagonist who bravely confronts both villains and adolescence.

Pub Date: June 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77339-321-6

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Evernight Teen

Review Posted Online: May 22, 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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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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