It’s the haunting details of those around Kai that readers will remember.

UP FROM THE SEA

Kai’s life is upended when his coastal village is devastated in Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami in this verse novel from an author who experienced them firsthand.

With his single mother, her parents, and his friend Ryu among the thousands missing or dead, biracial Kai, 17, is dazed and disoriented. His friend Shin’s supportive, but his intact family reminds Kai, whose American dad has been out of touch for years, of his loss. Kai’s isolation is amplified by his uncertain cultural status. Playing soccer and his growing friendship with shy Keiko barely lessen his despair. Then he’s invited to join a group of Japanese teens traveling to New York to meet others who as teenagers lost parents in the 9/11 attacks a decade earlier. Though at first reluctant, Kai agrees to go and, in the process, begins to imagine a future. Like graphic novels, today’s spare novels in verse (the subgenre concerning disasters especially) are significantly shaped by what’s left out. Lacking art’s visceral power to grab attention, verse novels may—as here—feel sparsely plotted with underdeveloped characters portrayed from a distance in elegiac monotone. Kai’s a generic figure, a coat hanger for the disaster’s main event, his victories mostly unearned; in striking contrast, his rural Japanese community and how they endure catastrophe and overwhelming losses—what they do and don’t do for one another, comforts they miss, kindnesses they value—spring to life.

It’s the haunting details of those around Kai that readers will remember. (author preface, afterword) (Verse fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53474-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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