Great characters in search of a less gimmicky narrative.

ASK AGAIN LATER

One teen’s prom night splits in two directions.

Seventeen-year-old Heart LaCoeur (who’s already planning to change her “porn star” name upon turning 18) has plans to attend the dance with friends as part of “the No Drama Prom-a Crew.” Unfortunately, fate (in which she does not believe) inserts itself in the form of two last-minute dates: her French-class conversation partner, Ryan, and her brother’s football teammate, Troy, recently dumped by his girlfriend. With the flip of a Chuck E. Cheese token, the first-person narrative splits in two. In the “Heads” version of reality, she is Troy’s date and the odd girl out among the jocks and cheerleaders. In the “Tails” version, her date is gay Ryan, who has come out only to her. The night plays out in various hijinks before the split narratives collide in a somewhat predictable, but still satisfying, romantic conclusion. In her debut, Czukas gives readers a glimpse of a genuine comedic voice and surprisingly well-developed characters, but much of the book’s promise is lost, victim of its own contrivance, in a choose-your-own-prom adventure without actual choices. Some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments are scattered throughout the unevenly paced narrative. This may work for readers seeking a cute and frothy prom-night romp, but anyone looking for something more substantial will be disappointed.

Great characters in search of a less gimmicky narrative. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-227239-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun...

DOROTHY MUST DIE

When a cyclone deposits a 21st-century Kansas teen in Oz, she and readers discover there’ve been some changes made.

Dirt-poor “Salvation Amy” Gumm lives in a trailer park, effectively parenting her alcoholic mom (her dad ran off years ago), who seems to care more about her pet rat, Star, than her daughter. That doesn’t mean Amy is eager to be in Oz, particularly this Oz. Tyrannized by a megalomaniacal Dorothy and mined of its magic, it’s a dystopian distortion of the paradise Baum and MGM depicted. In short order, Amy breaks the wholly capricious laws and is thrown into a cell in the Emerald City with only Star for company. There, she’s visited first by the mysterious but sympathetic Pete and then by the witch Mombi, who breaks her out and takes her to the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (among whom is the very hot Nox). Amy may well be the salvation of Oz—only someone from the Other Place can take Dorothy down. Paige has clearly had the time of her life with this reboot, taking a dystopian-romance template and laying it over Oz. Readers of Baum’s books will take special delight in seeing new twists on the old characters, and they will greet the surprise climactic turnabout with the smugness of insiders.

In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun than many of its ilk. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228067-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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