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

THE 2012 PROPHECIES

HEIR OF THE JAGUAR

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

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Fast-paced, entertaining, and exciting, with a fresh, believable voice.

LAST GIRL STANDING

In this YA thriller, a teenage girl investigates a conspiracy in her hometown when residents start acting brainwashed.

“I’ve known for some time that our family’s not normal,” says 17-year-old Sierra Mendez, from the small California town of Los Patos. Her father died when she was 6. Sierra’s mother, Lauren Woodard, is an organic farmer who believes in self-sufficiency, keeps hens and a goat, and proclaims that the town’s tap water is poison. When their rain barrel runs dry, Sierra must haul buckets of water from the nearby river—and that’s where, one morning, she discovers a floating corpse, only the first of increasingly sinister events. The body is that of Mr. Delmar, the water district manager, to whom Lauren wrote threatening letters; the new police chief, Capt. Leach, openly leers at Sierra and throws Lauren in a cell; and more and more town residents take on a glazed, stupefied look. It’s a conspiracy involving the town’s water, Sierra concludes. Her suspicions are stoked by TV channels that now all broadcast an infomercial containing subliminal messaging: “Watch TV…Don’t Ask Questions…Do Your Job…All is Well.” Worse still, zombified people are being replaced by androids. Escape from Los Patos is impossible, so Sierra and a few friends must hatch a bold plan to attack the conspiracy at its source. Kaptanoglu (Dreadmarrow Thief, 2017) writes an engaging, often humorous tale that includes romance, teamwork, heroism, some tragedy, and a little paranoia along with a likable, smart, and cool cast. They’re racially and culturally diverse; for example, popular soccer star Myles has two dads and is Asian Caucasian. (Though this would seem to indicate generally progressive politics, the town “voted for Trump.”) Many plot elements have a comic element, but the story also affords much opportunity for personal development, like Sierra’s unresolved guilty feelings over some childish misbehavior that indirectly catalyzed her father’s deportation to, and death in, El Salvador. The adventure moves along rapidly with plenty of action while saving a few surprises for the end.

Fast-paced, entertaining, and exciting, with a fresh, believable voice.

Pub Date: March 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-648-44714-6

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Leschenault Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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RIVER FRIENDLY, RIVER WILD

Kurtz (I’m Sorry, Almira Ann, 1999, etc.) turns personal disaster into a universally affecting book about the 1997 flooding of the Red River in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Pictures and text catapult readers into the experience of loss when a river swells higher than anyone could have imagined and floods a town. Fleeing her home, the narrator leaves her cat behind and spends much of the flood’s aftermath missing her “motor-stomach Kiwi cat” as her family sleeps on the shelter’s hard cots; knows that “someday I’ll do the same for someone else” as she accepts provisions others have anonymously donated and delivered; sifts through the family’s sodden Christmas box to find mostly useless evidence of happy memories; and sees the unutterable mess and loss of all that is home, which will finally, ironically, be washed away by a new, life-saving dike. The beautifully articulate poems chronicle as well the loss of a good neighborhood, one where people save a cat because they can and it’s a good thing to do, just as they would, in happier times, have loaned a cup of sugar. Without sentimentality, the book speaks of loss as elemental as the force bringing it and of survival of equal magnitude. Brennan’s stylish oils, sometimes framed on a page, sometimes in full-bleed pages or spreads, capture and express this blend of specific universality. A book that belongs on every shelf in buildings up and down the country’s riverways. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82049-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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