An unsettling, engaging dream-world adventure

THE DREAMWAY

When pragmatic Stella’s imaginative twin brother, Cole, loses his spirit in the dream world, she must rescue him before he is consumed by shadow creatures who thrive on the creative brightness of human beings.

It begins when Cole investigates something he sees moving in the subway and becomes so spooked he leaves his treasured notebook of stories behind. Cole’s behavior swiftly changes, and Stella begins to have dreams that land her in the Dreamway, the place where all human beings go when they dream. There she encounters Anyway, a Door Mouse who just happens to possess a torn piece of Cole’s notebook. Anyway informs Sheila that her brother’s spirit has been taken by a Chimerath, and to rescue him, they must get to the Nightmare Line. Stella struggles to navigate her waking hours, during which Cole is becoming angrier and more violent, and her time in the Dreamway, where she and Anyway, with the help of a few Dreamway employees, work to find Cole before his light is completely drained. Though the worldbuilding can be arbitrary and is largely delivered in expository dumps from Anyway, this tale has a beguiling, appropriately Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland–steampunk feel. The book subscribes to the white default. Stella has a childhood stroke–induced physical disability by day; although it seems to disappear by night as she bravely traverses the unpredictable landscape of the dream world, Anyway tells her she is not healed, adding a layer of healthy realism.

An unsettling, engaging dream-world adventure . (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-237111-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart.

I'M OK

When Korean-American Ok Lee loses his father in a construction accident, he and his mom must fend for themselves financially while quietly grieving.

Middle schooler Ok watches as his mother takes on multiple jobs with long hours trying to make ends meet. Determined to help, he sets his sights on his school’s talent show. The winner takes home $100 in cash, enough to pay the utilities before they get cut off. His search to find a bankable talent is complicated by unwanted attention from bully Asa, who’s African-American, and blackmail at the hands of a strange classmate named Mickey, who’s white. To make matters worse, his mother starts dating Deacon Koh, “the lonely widower” of the First Korean Full Gospel Church, who seems to have dubious motives and “tries too hard.” Narrator Ok navigates this full plot with quirky humor that borders on dark at times. His feelings and actions dealing with his grief are authentic. Most of the characters take a surprising turn, in one way or another helping Ok despite initial, somewhat stereotypical introductions and abundant teasing with racial jokes. Although most of the characters go through a transformation, Ok’s father in comparison is not as fleshed-out, and Asa’s African-American Vernacular English occasionally feels repetitive and forced.

A work of heavy, realistic fiction told with oddball humor, honesty, and heart. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1929-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more