A tale of longing and belonging.

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THE PHANTOM TWIN

Conjoined twins Jane and Isabel “Jan-Iss” Peabody are performers in an early-20th-century carnival sideshow.

Sold by their parents to the sideshow manager at the age of 3, the twins are exploited to perform for gawking audiences. The other performers (or “freaks,” an insult they have reclaimed) become their family. Now 16, Jane is ambitious and outgoing while Isabel is more appreciative of their carnival support system. When a doctor who aspires to medical fame offers to surgically separate the sisters, Jane jumps at the opportunity to lead a “normal” life. Isabel is less convinced but agrees for her sister’s sake. Tragically, Jane dies as a result of the surgery, and Isabel, who loses their shared arm and leg, is fitted with prosthetic limbs. Haunted by her twin’s ghost, Isabel struggles to come to terms with her new identity. Brown’s clean, cartoonlike images in subdued hues enhance the story. The novel touches on the ways that marginalized people were exploited by sideshows but also, at times, gained the ability to avoid institutionalization and support themselves. However, the story fails to deeply explore the nature of exploitation of difference both historically and today. Strong pacing will keep readers engaged, but the characters are not well developed enough for the story to resonate on a deep emotional level. Jane and Isabel are white; secondary characters are black, Japanese American, and have various disabilities.

A tale of longing and belonging. (author’s note, bibliography, glossary) (Graphic fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-924-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Even those who loved the first book might find too little logic in this conclusion

THE PACK

A group of shape-shifting runaways from the circus, on the run from genocidal hunters, tries to find a home.

Flo, her boyfriend, Jett, and the other shifters just want to find a strong pack to join. The teenagers (all either white or with no identified race) can all shift into an animal form: bears or tigers, parrots or rats, elephants or horses. The frightened escapees, who’ve lost many of their loved ones to hunters, have been seeking some safe place in the woods. The members of this huge cast (with too many names and animal forms to keep track of) have a wide array of agendas. Should they join the wild pack? The wolf pack? Should they even stay together? After brief dramas, many of these newly introduced characters vanish, never to be heard from again. Finally, Flo and the shifters are captured by hunters, who are in league with the lion who used to run their circus, who’d been betraying them for years and who now seeks to strike a bargain. Further dramatic revelations and betrayals await, of course. There’s no attempt to summarize the events of The Wanderers (2015), and with so many characters, side quests, and double crosses, it’s often difficult to keep track.

Even those who loved the first book might find too little logic in this conclusion . (Fantasy. 13-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1218-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Interesting plot twists almost carry endless pages of Forbidden Love.

DREAMLESS

Real sexual tension apparently requires all the divine forces in the universe be arrayed against you, if this book is any guide.

Demigods and erstwhile lovers Helen and Lucas can never be together, because they're secretly first cousins. Just in case the couple realizes that relationships between cousins aren't considered incest in their home state of Massachusetts (or 24 other states in the union), Lucas's father explains that the future of the demigod species, nay, of the entire planet depends on the couple staying apart. Because! Of history! And magical things! And could Lucas just stop being so selfish? Lucas responds by pretending to hate Helen, following the standard tortured-angsty-boy recipe for staying away from his girlfriend. Poor Helen, meanwhile, is spending all her sleeping hours traveling the Underworld. She hopes to defeat the Furies and end the senseless feuding that has tormented the semi-divine Scions since the Trojan War, but she can't seem to make any headway in the blasted hellscape of the Underworld. Not to mention, her magical journeys are keeping her from REM sleep, thus probably killing her. At least she's met a hot new Scion in the Underworld to fill the vacancy Lucas left by being such a meanie.

Interesting plot twists almost carry endless pages of Forbidden Love. (Paranormal romance. 13-15)

Pub Date: May 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-201201-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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