Francie may not be a real detective, but she is so confident that there’s never really any doubt of her eventual success,...

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ENCHANTMENT LAKE

A NORTHWOODS MYSTERY

From the Enchantment Lake series , Vol. 1

Preus, author of the Newbery Honor–winning Heart of a Samurai (2010), is known for her engrossing historical fiction. Now she changes pace and offers a mystery set in the present.

Francie, 17 and fresh off a television gig in which she played a teen detective, is frantically called back to her lakeside childhood vacation home in northern Minnesota. Her two great-aunts, flaky but endearing, who own the isolated cottage, believe someone is murdering their neighbors in an effort to gain access to a large tract of real estate. They’ve represented Francie as a real New York detective, a lie the townspeople somewhat implausibly buy into, and she begins a halfhearted investigation. Effectively combining some mildly scary treks through the dark woods, a growing sense of peril and a dash of romance in the form of handsome Nels, this mystery will keep readers engaged even though it lacks the punch of previous works. The body count is high, but the actual deaths aren’t depicted, minimizing their potential menace. When the truly malevolent surprise perpetrator is finally revealed from among a group of red herrings, the threat is swiftly eliminated; a minor mystery remains unsolved, suggesting the potential focus of the sequel.

Francie may not be a real detective, but she is so confident that there’s never really any doubt of her eventual success, making her good company but perhaps not riveting reading for hard-core mystery fans. (Mystery. 11-16)

Pub Date: March 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8166-8302-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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