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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For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales.

COLD HEARTED

A TALE OF THE WICKED STEPMOTHER

From the Villains series

How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?

She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.

For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02528-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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