The relatable, refreshingly non-Caucasian protagonist will take readers on an action-packed cultural adventure.

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The world seems to be on the brink of destruction, as the Maya people might have predicted, and its fate might just rest on the shoulders of a single teenage boy in Simone’s debut young-adult thriller.

As far as Cory McClintock knows, he’s a normal kid. The only thing distinguishing him is that, when he was a baby, his father adopted him from a Maya woman who had begged him to take care of her son. One day, when Cory arrives home from school, he discovers his dad unconscious and bleeding; Cory is immediately kidnapped at gunpoint by Culebra, a man claiming to be his uncle, who takes him to Guatemala. According to Culebra, Cory is the latest in a line of Maya kings who have the ability to reshape the world in the last days of the Maya calendar, a time of planetary upheaval and rebirth. Culebra plans on sacrificing him on an altar, thus taking Cory’s power for himself. Simone has crafted a taut novel that’s impressive for its razor-edge suspense as well as its verisimilitude. Written in first-person present tense, the prose is incredibly tight, sharp and intelligent. Cory never comes across as anything less than a fully believable young man, despite the bizarre circumstances in which he finds himself. His attempts to escape his uncle’s clutches provide nail-biting suspense. Given the novel’s title, one might expect an exploitation of ancient culture, but Simone’s tale has the utmost respect for Maya civilization as the narrative spins a sensationalist tale out of a modern interpretation. The story ultimately illuminates Maya beliefs, while managing to pay homage to pop culture’s apocalyptic interpretation.

The relatable, refreshingly non-Caucasian protagonist will take readers on an action-packed cultural adventure.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1463567330

Page Count: 216

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2012


In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000



Unquestionably readable, full of action and suspense.

An intensely readable yet alarmingly violent cross between TV shows Lost and Survivor.

In book one of this series, Marcus, a runaway, is kidnapped and taken to an island in the Bermuda Triangle where a government-sponsored experiment is supposedly under way to measure how bodies react to extreme pressures in a hostile environment. Wounded 13-year-old Lynn is also trapped in the frightening wilderness surrounded by electrified fences. The teens are told they will be hunted and killed, but they adjust amazingly fast, finding water and shelter and creating weapons. When Lynn is apparently killed, Marcus becomes obsessed with vengeance and uses great ingenuity to murder many mysterious agents. He does capture one, however, who is willing to cooperate, and the two are helped by an unseen yet terrifying monster that remains one of the island’s greatest unexplained mysteries. The strange island, hostiles, traps, dangerous boars and experimenting on humans are all reminiscent of Lost; the need for companionship, shelter, food and weapons remind one of Survivor. A few details detract from the storyline throughout, such as whether the captured agent would so quickly become an ally or that Marcus would know how to build grenades and bombs so easily. Abrupt shifts between first and third person are also quite jarring. Despite these pitfalls, readers will root for Marcus and his crew to prevail over the sinister Survival Op staff, and the story concludes with plenty of plot threads to explore in further editions.

Unquestionably readable, full of action and suspense.

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-595-42062-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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