A tale of longing and belonging.

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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Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure

CITY OF LOST SOULS

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 5

What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift.

Clary's long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace's foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can't carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary's continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the "million little paper cuts" of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips ("all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking").

Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure . (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1686-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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