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THE LIGHTNING TREE

A brisk, thrilling novel of humankind versus nature.

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In Fogelberg’s YA fantasy series starter, trees begin attacking and killing humans, and three teens investigate why.

In Derwyn, Pennsylvania, high school junior Flora Reed has been an outcast for a year, ever since she and her sister were struck by lightning. She has strange scars on her skin, but her 14-year-old sister, Fauna, is in a catatonic state. In addition, Flora still struggles with the fact that their scientist father went missing years ago. However, her best friend, Carl Nielsen, convinces her to attend an end-of-the-school-year party to celebrate summer. Three boys there aggressively demand to see Flora’s scars and rip her T-shirt from her body before Carl and his friend Aaron rescue her. The next morning, Flora sees one of the boys that attacked her the night before, hanging from the very tree she and Fauna had climbed before lightning struck. Soon, the other two boys are found dead in the woods, twisted into tree branches. Each boys had an X scratched into his forehead, and then Carl receives a similar mark while running through the woods. Flora, Carl, and Aaron are sure the trees are attacking humans after marking them, but no one believes them. Soon, Flora and the boys must hide from an angry mob, and she starts to suspect that Carl knows more than he’s letting on—and the more she learns about the trees, the more she begins to understand their goal. Over the course of this YA novel, Fogelberg presents an exciting story not only of teens trying to escape the trees themselves, but also townspeople intent on pinning crimes on them. The story delves into classic SF themes regarding environmentalism and humans’ abuse of the planet’s resources, but it feels very original at the same time. Flora’s feelings of being an outsider due to her accident and her family situation feel genuine, and young readers will certainly be able to relate to her anxieties. Overall, it’s a fast-paced, intriguing story that will likely appeal to young and older adults alike and keep them turning pages.

A brisk, thrilling novel of humankind versus nature.

Pub Date: March 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-9-19874-760-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dedaun Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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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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