An 1880s traveling circus star wishes to be more than a monster on display.

Born with feathers, a beak, and solid black eyes, Avita is the apple of her father’s eye and his circus’s most profitable act, biting the heads off live chickens for crowds. The book’s opening lavishly sets the stage, including the circus’s garish delights—such as star stripper Luna, Avita’s beautiful, icy older sister, described as being “sex itself” even at 14 and working the “kootchie tent” since before her first period. Her brother—“born with dwarfism” but too many physical ailments to perform—is the circus’s brainy manager and their father’s punching bag. Avita’s first-person, past-tense narration vacillates wildly between being a true believer in her ringmaster father’s vision and a more jaded view; the end result is jarring. Other characters’ viewpoints include both the past and present tenses. Most interesting about Avita’s characterization is how she views her “hideous” face as a blessing even as she wishes people would look past it; less interesting is her leaning into self-objectification. Avita’s first crush kick-starts her quest to be seen as more than a monster as her family travels to a portentous city—and a showdown with their greatest rival. Surprisingly humanizing at heart is the unraveling family’s dynamic, set amid a coarse, exploitative environment run by a charismatic, tyrannical showman. Unfortunately, Avita’s eventual triumphant ending rings hollow and pat. Central characters are cued White; there is diversity in the supporting cast.

Intense but uneven. (Fabulism. 17-adult)

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9235-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre.


A dystopic thriller joins the crowded shelves but doesn't distinguish itself.

Juliette was torn from her home and thrown into an asylum by The Reestablishment, a militaristic regime in control since an environmental catastrophe left society in ruins. Juliette’s journal holds her tortured thoughts in an attempt to repress memories of the horrific act that landed her in a cell. Mysteriously, Juliette’s touch kills. After months of isolation, her captors suddenly give her a cellmate—Adam, a drop-dead gorgeous guy. Adam, it turns out, is immune to her deadly touch. Unfortunately, he’s a soldier under orders from Warner, a power-hungry 19-year-old. But Adam belongs to a resistance movement; he helps Juliette escape to their stronghold, where she finds that she’s not the only one with superhuman abilities. The ending falls flat as the plot devolves into comic-book territory. Fast-paced action scenes convey imminent danger vividly, but there’s little sense of a broader world here. Overreliance on metaphor to express Juliette’s jaw-dropping surprise wears thin: “My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps. My eyebrows are dangling from the ceiling.” For all of her independence and superpowers, Juliette never moves beyond her role as a pawn in someone else’s schemes.

Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-208548-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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