An engaging ’90s pastiche with an earnest heart beating at its center.

RUNAWAY TRAIN

A 1990s California grunge girl mourning the death of her sister sets out on a road trip of self-discovery in this YA novel.

Sixteen-year-old Nico Sullivan has been having a rough time since police came to her door to tell her that her sister, Kristen, died of a brain aneurysm during her morning jog through Laurel Canyon. That was Halloween 1993, the same day River Phoenix overdosed across town at the Viper Room in West Hollywood. No one in Nico’s family is dealing with it well, and six months after Kristen’s death, the teen comes home to find her mother in flagrante delicto with a neighbor. Nico’s been keeping a bucket list since her sister died: “Sometimes I take it out” and pore over “its wild contents that ranged from surfing, to climbing a mountain and facing my fear of heights, to kissing a boy I really had feelings for, to getting up in front of an audience and singing my heart out.” Faced with the prospect of her parents’ divorce—and egged on by her two friends also facing burnout—Nico decides to take her teal blue Hyundai Excel up the West Coast, knocking things off the list and coming to terms with her grief. The last thing on the list: driving to Seattle and knocking on the door of her favorite singer, Kurt Cobain. What could go wrong? Goldberg brings Nico to life with a narration that, save for a few anachronisms (“hella,” “muffin top”), is unabashedly 1994: “While I’m hella jealous of Courtney Love because of who she gets to lie next to every night, Hole’s music actually rocks. As I drive, I sing ‘Miss World’ until my throat is red, knowing I should support female musicians that are part of the Riot Grrrl movement rather than tear them down.” Nico is equal parts angst, humor, and longing, a compelling combination that invites readers into all manner of memorable (and often inadvisable) situations. She doesn’t always sound entirely like a 16-year-old girl, but she embodies the grunge ethos enough to make the constant music references feel like more than just a conceit.

An engaging ’90s pastiche with an earnest heart beating at its center.

Pub Date: April 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953944-04-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

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RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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