Atmospheric and provocative but hampered by a cacophony of messages.

READ REVIEW

VOYAGES IN THE UNDERWORLD OF ORPHEUS BLACK

An injured firefighter records eerie experiences as he searches for his brother during the London Blitz.

Following an earnest effort to restore sibling bonds sundered by his decision to register as a conscientious objector, Harry Black leaves his enlisted older brother, Ellis, in a pub that takes a direct hit only minutes later from a V-2. Waking up with head injuries, Harry woozily escapes the hospital to undertake the seemingly hopeless task of digging into the wreckage after his brother—describing his frantic efforts in disjointed notebook entries around prescient visions of future wars fought by machines that he illustrates with nightmarish views of hanging bodies and armies of shrouded figures in hazmat suits. Along with lurid details (notably a pocket full of glass eyes that Harry snatches from a warehouse fire which appear throughout as spot art) the authors, brothers themselves, add a mythic overlay by interspersing extended verse (occasionally rhymed) comments by Orpheus as observer and psychopomp and extending Harry’s quest into a dangerous, jumbled underworld that has its own king and pomegranate-eating queen. The attempt to shovel on another layer of significance by trotting in an otherworldly Kindertransport child and positioning her as symbolic of both true peace and a gender complement is ill conceived. Still, unlike his lyre-strumming alter ego, Harry does in the end bring off a rescue…albeit at a cost.

Atmospheric and provocative but hampered by a cacophony of messages. (Historical fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0437-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Yet another bland, half-baked dystopian exercise.

CRAZY HOUSE

A teen girl goes looking for her missing twin sister.

In the absence of their parents, Cassie and Becca, both white, are doing their best to tend to the family farm. One morning, Cassie wakes up to discover Becca is missing. Meanwhile, Becca wakens in a horrific children’s prison, in which the detained are forced to fight to the death. As Cassie searches for her sister, Becca does her best to survive the torture her captors put her through. The novel is set in a future in which populations are organized geographically into isolated cells. The government controls all the information going in and out. More lurks beneath the surface, and the book sets up further installments, but few readers will feel the need to keep reading. The world is poorly built, the characters are dreadfully thin, and the plotting is drastically uneven. When Cassie and Becca are finally reunited, readers will have little reason to celebrate: their relationship is so thinly sketched they barely feel like sisters. The torture sequences in the teen prison are gratuitous and dreary. A last-minute twist is easily predicted, making the slow, tedious burn toward the reveal and the barely distinguishable characters all the more intolerable.

Yet another bland, half-baked dystopian exercise. (Dystopian adventure. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-43131-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Heavy-handed exposition, flat characters and trite dialogue don't elevate this outing past forgettable.

DON'T YOU WISH

An unsatisfying blend of science fiction and Gossip Girl marks St. Claire's young adult debut.

Annie Nutter is so invisible no one notices or cares when their backpacks hit her in the face as they climb on the school bus. After her mother reveals that Annie's father could have been Jim Monroe, the billionaire owner of a chain of plastic-surgery clinics, Annie wonders if she'd trade her own father, an inventor with wacky ideas, for a different life. Predictably, one of her father's inventions sends Annie into another universe. Now Annie Nutter is Ayla Monroe: rich, beautiful and A-list. Ayla's friends are shallow shoplifters, and her hot boyfriend just wants sex; Jim Monroe is a mustache-twirling villain. Then Annie falls for Charlie Zelinsky, a genius who was homeless for a short time. The author tries to ground the creaky body-swap concept in real science: When Charlie learns and accepts Annie's story, he implausibly uses physics and long explanations to replicate her father's invention. Of course, this makes Annie question whether she should stay or go.

Heavy-handed exposition, flat characters and trite dialogue don't elevate this outing past forgettable. (Science fiction/chick-lit. 14-17)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-74156-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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