Despite the characters’ refreshingly intersectional diversity, the thrills fall flat.

EVEN IF WE BREAK

A murder-mystery role-playing game becomes real when its players gather in a remote mountain cabin.

In their elaborate fantasy world of Gonfalon, five disparate high schoolers can safely be themselves, solving murders and exploring new identities. But now, painful rifts threaten their friendship. As a last-ditch effort to reconcile before heading out into the world, they meet in the Arizona mountains for one last game. But soon, players start dying for real, and the killer knows their worst secrets. Are the ghost stories about the mountain true, or is the killer all too human? In alternating chapters, the teens reflect on their lives while fighting to survive. Finn, a trans boy who has arthritis and walks with forearm crutches, loathes asking for help. Ever, who’s trans and nonbinary, struggles to support their working-class family. Maddy, who’s autistic, grapples with pain and trauma after a car accident. Wealthy Liva is beholden to her family’s expectations, and Carter feels unappreciated. Author Nijkamp, who identifies as queer, disabled, and nonbinary, thoughtfully examines the intricacies of neurodivergence, chronic pain, addiction, and belonging. Unfortunately, repetitive, expository narration bogs down the pacing and diminishes suspense. Characters are distinguished more by their respective challenges than by full-fledged personalities, and dialogue is often stilted. However, Ever and Finn’s romance is touching. The teens are White.

Despite the characters’ refreshingly intersectional diversity, the thrills fall flat. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3611-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status.

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FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

Testing the strength of family bonds is never easy—and lies make it even harder.

Daunis is trying to balance her two communities: The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, teen is constantly adapting, whether she is with her Anishinaabe father’s side of the family, the Firekeepers, or the Fontaines, her White mother’s wealthy relatives. She has grand plans for her future, as she wants to become a doctor, but has decided to defer her plans to go away for college because her maternal grandmother is recovering from a stroke. Daunis spends her free time playing hockey with her Firekeeper half brother, Levi, but tragedy strikes, and she discovers someone is selling a dangerous new form of meth—and the bodies are piling up. While trying to figure out who is behind this, Daunis pulls away from her family, covering up where she has been and what she has been doing. While dealing with tough topics like rape, drugs, racism, and death, this book balances the darkness with Ojibwe cultural texture and well-crafted characters. Daunis is a three-dimensional, realistically imperfect girl trying her best to handle everything happening around her. The first-person narration reveals her internal monologue, allowing readers to learn what’s going on in her head as she encounters anti-Indian bias and deals with grief.

A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76656-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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