A beautifully written, surprise-filled page-turner.

SPICE ROAD

From the Spice Road series , Vol. 1

Seventeen-year-old Imani leaves the only world she’s ever known to bring home her disgraced older brother in this fantasy adventure.

Sahir is a place of magic, isolated from other nations and threatened only by the monsters that live in the magic-free wasteland known as the Swallowing Sands. Heartbroken by her beloved brother Atheer’s assumed death, Imani throws herself into her work as a member of the Shields, protecting her city of Qalia from these outside threats. She’s aided by the magical properties of Spice, a tea made from the bark of the ancient misra tree that temporarily allows those who consume it to control whichever element of the land they have an affinity for. When Imani finds herself face to face with the djinn Qayn, who claims Atheer is alive and assisting a rebellion in a country across the Swallowing Sands, she persuades the ruling Council of Al-Zahim to let her journey to this unknown land and bring him back. Ibrahim’s worldbuilding is fresh, with an exciting premise that not only promises a tantalizing romance, but explores classism, privilege, and a debate on the human responsibility to support those who are powerless. The novel is heavily influenced by Arab cultures with elements like food (for example, manakish and bamya) and representations of everyday life, like smoking shisha and discussing politics, that feel authentic and natural. All main characters have traditionally Arabic names with varying physical descriptors that speak to the diversity within the Arab world.

A beautifully written, surprise-filled page-turner. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-12696-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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