THE CHANGEOVER

Again, as in The Haunting (1982), New Zealand writer Mahy proves that all-out supernatural stories can still be written with intelligence, humor, and a fearful intensity that never descends into pretentious murk or lurid sensationalism. Laura, 14, living with divorced Mum (a bookstore manager) and little brother Jacko in a small New Zealand town, is a "sensitive." She gets "warnings" when big disturbances—like her parents' divorce—are imminent. She has the ability to take one look at older schoolmate Sorensen Carlisle and know that he's a witch. And when an old junk-store owner named Carmody Braque playfully stamps Jacko's hand with a smiling replica of Braque's own face, it's Laura who soon realizes that something ghastly has happened: "the stamp was part of him now, more than a tattoo—a sort of parasite picture tunneling its way deeper and deeper, feeding itself as it went." Jacko falls ill, then becomes seriously, mysteriously sick, wasting away, comatose, in a hospital bed. Laura's distraught mother, now growing closer to a librariansuitor, can't even listen to her daughter's ideas about the supernatural causes of Jacko's decline. So Laura desperately turns for help to "Sorry" Carlisle, who lives in a forbidding ancestral manse with his mother and grandmother—good witches who tried (in vain) to give Sorry a normal life away from magic. At first the Carlisles are cautious, distant, slow to admit their witchly powers; Sorry, deeply ambivalent about witch-hood, is sarcastic, sexually teasing. But eventually they agree to guide Laura in her battle for Jacko's life against Carmody Braque, a demon who must feed on human souls and bodies. The first step? Laura must make the "changeover" into witch-hood—something her psychic sensibility makes possible. (The visionary ritual involved is a perfect mix of the chilling and the comic, with Laura taking pot-shots at the poor literary quality of Sorry's chants.) Then, with moral support from Sorry, Laura must have a one-on-one confrontation with demon Braque, hiding her new witch-hood behind dark glasses and stamping his hand with a sign of her power. And finally, after Braque's Oz-style annihilation ("he continued to change back through the centuries of stolen life until his clothes collapsed around what at first appeared to be a rotting, heaving mass"), Laura can celebrate Jacko's recovery—and her own recovery from "a secret illness no one had ever completely recognized or been able to cure": the post-divorce hatred of her father, the jealousy of her mother's new boyfriend. Mahy thus invests the occult evils here with a metaphorical, psychological undertow; at the same time, however, while filling out all the characters (including the witches) with textured charm, she never stints on thoroughgoing creeps and scares. In sum: the best supernatural YA fiction around, with Stephen King power and Mahy's own class and polish.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1984

ISBN: 0007155018

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1984

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Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre.

SHATTER ME

A dystopic thriller joins the crowded shelves but doesn't distinguish itself.

Juliette was torn from her home and thrown into an asylum by The Reestablishment, a militaristic regime in control since an environmental catastrophe left society in ruins. Juliette’s journal holds her tortured thoughts in an attempt to repress memories of the horrific act that landed her in a cell. Mysteriously, Juliette’s touch kills. After months of isolation, her captors suddenly give her a cellmate—Adam, a drop-dead gorgeous guy. Adam, it turns out, is immune to her deadly touch. Unfortunately, he’s a soldier under orders from Warner, a power-hungry 19-year-old. But Adam belongs to a resistance movement; he helps Juliette escape to their stronghold, where she finds that she’s not the only one with superhuman abilities. The ending falls flat as the plot devolves into comic-book territory. Fast-paced action scenes convey imminent danger vividly, but there’s little sense of a broader world here. Overreliance on metaphor to express Juliette’s jaw-dropping surprise wears thin: “My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps. My eyebrows are dangling from the ceiling.” For all of her independence and superpowers, Juliette never moves beyond her role as a pawn in someone else’s schemes.

Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-208548-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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