Recommended futuristic fiction with a twist.

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TOXIC

In Kang’s (The Impossible Girl, 2018, etc.) YA sci-fi novel, a bioengineered girl and a boy sent into space to die find each other on an abandoned, sentient ship—along with a lot more than they bargained for.

Hana, a young woman with genetic enhancements that give her advanced abilities, wakes after a week of chemically induced sleep to find herself alone. Hidden away in the private chambers of her “Mother,” no one knows of her existence except her creator and the sentient ship, called Cyclo. But when Hana asks where her mother is, Cyclo just tells her that her “mother is not here.” Venturing out of her room for the first time since she was born, Hana discovers that the rest of the ship is completely empty, the crew having evacuated with no plan to return. Meanwhile, a young man named Fenn is on a small ship with a small team, heading toward Cyclo to figure out why the ship is dying and what the company in charge can do to ensure that future sentient spacecraft live longer. There may be no return for those onboard when Cyclo finally fails, but if Fenn’s team manages to get enough information recorded, his ailing sister will receive enough money for necessary medical treatment. Finding Hana onboard is shocking enough—but then it’s revealed that someone on Fenn’s team may be a killer. Kang delivers a novel with a unique premise and solid storytelling, which makes it stand out in a sea of similar YA titles. Kang’s version of a sentient ship, for instance—one that communicates mainly through the use of colors on displays—is a beautifully original creation; Hana’s genetic enhancements, among other things, helpfully allow her to “see beyond the color spectrum that others can.” The overarching plot offers readers a compelling mix of romance and horror, and it puts a new spin on the idea of star-crossed lovers. The pacing of the story is steady throughout, with enough momentum to keep readers consistently engaged.

Recommended futuristic fiction with a twist.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64063-424-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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