A sudden cliffhanger sets up this fast-paced thriller (full of blaring brass and pounding drums) for a sequel.

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SEKRET

From the Sekret series , Vol. 1

Cold War espionage smoothly blended with psychic romance.

It’s 1963, and 17-year-old Yulia is a starved “ration rat” in Khrushchev’s Moscow. Her family, once high-ranking Communist Party members, has been on the run since her father vanished. Yulia thinks the mysterious psychic ability she uses in the black market is a secret until the KGB arrests her family. If she wants to protect her mother and brother, Yulia must join six other teenagers training for the KGB’s “psychic operations wing,” learning to smoke out dissidents and American spies. The teens protect their thoughts from one another—though not from their KGB masters—by filling their heads with subconscious music: the symphonic cellos and tympani of Shostakovich for Yulia, jazz improvisations for beautiful but dangerous Valentin, ancient Russian balalaika for Maj. Kruzenko. Yulia narrates with prose that ably reflects the sometimes-discordant cacophony of these disparate musical styles, as she seeks the simple melody that will explain family secrets and earn her freedom. Smith strikes an inexpert contextualizing balance, teetering between unexplained Russian and giving Yulia an outsider’s view of her own culture. Still, the Soviet setting (uncannily similar to many a sci-fi dystopian future) is a flavorful backdrop for psychic espionage.

A sudden cliffhanger sets up this fast-paced thriller (full of blaring brass and pounding drums) for a sequel. (historical note) (Science fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-892-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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