Strong on neopagan religion and ritual; dubious on female empowerment.

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MARESI

From the Red Abbey Chronicles series , Vol. 1

An idyllic abbey of women is attacked by men.

The island of Menos’ only inhabitants are the Mother, learned sisters, and novices of Red Abbey. Girls come fleeing poverty and persecution; they receive shelter and sustenance, plus knowledge and wisdom they can sometimes take back to their homelands. Thirteen-year-old Maresi arrived four years ago, escaping the “hunger winters” that killed her younger sister. The Abbey’s unnamed neopagan religion serves the Goddess in her three aspects—Maiden, Mother, Crone—and although Maresi narrates in first-person, readers will understand long before she does that the Crone’s calls to her don’t foretell her death. Violence threatens, though, when novice Jai’s father invades no-men-allowed Menos. He’s already buried Jai’s sister alive, and another honor killing looms. (Jai’s two-dimensional culture consists entirely of threadbare misogyny tropes, such as women forbidden from speaking to men outside the family or leaving the house after sunset.) The Abbey’s victory—wrought by vague power based in women’s hair and a last-minute bailout by the Crone—sits alongside a mass near-rape that’s prevented when the sister currently embodying the Maiden places the rapists “under the enchantment of her radiant beauty” and sacrifices herself, in a way the text portrays as glorious and noble, to rape. Jai’s people are white and blond; other characters are either white-skinned or undesignated.

Strong on neopagan religion and ritual; dubious on female empowerment. (maps) (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2269-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history

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  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ

A teenage girl imprisoned in Auschwitz keeps the secret library of a forbidden school.

Dita Adlerova, 14, is confined in the notorious extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Compared to her fellow inmates, Dita’s relatively lucky. The several thousand residents of camp BIIb are inexplicably allowed to keep their own clothing, their hair, and, most importantly, their children. A young man named Fredy Hirsch maintains a school in BIIb, right under the noses of the Nazis. In Fredy’s classroom, Dita discovers something wonderful: a dangerous collection of eight smuggled books. The tale, based on the real life of Dita Polach Kraus and the events of 1944 and 1945, intertwines the stories of several real people: Dita, Fredy, several little-known war heroes, even a grim cameo from Anne and Margot Frank. Holocaust-knowledgeable readers will have suspicions about how many characters will die horribly (spoiler alert: this is Auschwitz). Yet somehow, myriad storylines told by multiple narrators offer compelling narrative tension. Why does BIIb exist? Will Rudi and Alice have a romance? What’s Fredy’s secret? Will Dr. Mengele subject Dita to his grotesque experiments? Dita’s matter-of-fact perspective, set in a slow build from BIIb to the chaotic starvation of the war’s end, both increases the horror and makes it bearable to read.

Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history . (Historical fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-618-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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