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From the Stars and Smoke series , Vol. 2

Another engaging entry in this world of spies and international intrigue.

Pop superstar Winter Young is again drawn into the world of secret agent Sydney Cossette in this follow-up to Stars and Smoke (2023).

Though constantly on one another’s minds, Winter and Sydney have resisted making any contact with each other since narrowly surviving a mission in which Panacea, the secret organization Sydney works for, tapped Winter to use his megastar status to infiltrate a wealthy and powerful criminal underworld. Ratcheting up the tension in this enemies-to-lovers romantic thriller is the fact that Sydney is being sent to Singapore to extract Tems, a fellow agent who also happens to be her ex. Winter, who needs a plus-one for a Warcross Championship gala in order to better maintain his cover, invites his former girlfriend. Witty insults and crossed signals abound in the pair’s smoldering relationship, but this second installment is a bit darker than the first. If some of the betrayals and losses involved are easy enough to spot coming, they still pack an emotional punch due to the strong development of Winter’s and Sydney’s respective backstories, told in alternating third-person narratives, both involving abuse and psychological pain. Winter is Chinese American; Sydney is white, and there’s a diverse cast of supporting characters whom readers will likely see again—Lu has left the ending tantalizingly open for another installment.

Another engaging entry in this world of spies and international intrigue. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9781250852915

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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