Poignant at times but ultimately a frustrating read.

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THIN PLACES

Feeling increasingly isolated from the world, 16-year-old Declan Lynch falls for a girl whose voice he hears in his mind.

From a young age, Declan has heard voices in his head. Though his New Age–y mother tries to help him manage his situation, Declan constantly clashes with his science-driven (and extremely hostile) father because of it. The actual story kicks off when Declan begins to hear the voice of a girl named Rebecca. As she shows him visions of unfamiliar landscapes and people, Declan retreats further inward, fearing that their connection is weakening and thus becoming determined to meet the mysterious girl. Soon he flies to Ireland for answers and reconnects with his offbeat uncle Seamus. Choyce devotes much of the novel’s first half to defining Declan’s Irish roots, contrasting Declan’s immigrant father’s distaste for his homeland with Declan’s journey of self-discovery in Ireland. Declan scours the Irish seaside in hopes of finding a “thin place,” a sacred spot where the physical and spiritual worlds meet. Once he does find it—and Rebecca—the story takes a bizarre turn, ending on a beautifully melancholic note. However, occasionally stilted language pops in throughout the story to break the lyrical rhythm of the free-verse text. The romance element builds at an unbelievable pace, and the rather odd characterizations of mental health seem misplaced. More baffling still is the author’s choice to use the specter of a school shooting as a plot device to get Declan to Ireland.

Poignant at times but ultimately a frustrating read. (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4597-3957-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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