Given the complexities of worldbuilding and back story, for established fans only

MIRROR AT THE HEART OF TIME

From the Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek series , Vol. 3

Lena Gabrilowicz is hoping to start her freshman year at the University of Oregon alien-free, after accidentally falling for Ixdahan Daharek, an exile from the planet Snaldrialoor.

In trilogy opener Heart of Earth (2013), Ixdahan had been banished to Earth and forced into a human body, leading to his and Lena’s first adventure. After abandoning their romance to save the Earth in Heart of Mystery (2015), Ixdahan is now incorporeal, a setback to his reconnecting with Lena. While Lena meets a relative who suddenly appears from the year 2457, Ixdahan finds himself again at the center of a galactic threat as he is recruited to prevent a permanent rift in space-time. Zealot scientist Ardelt Zoktyla has created the Zoktyla root, a genetically modified superfood that contains every single nutrient—and she’s determined to hide its mysterious, not-so-pleasant side effect in order to sell it across the galaxy, even if it means the manipulation of time to boost crop yields and, worse, forcing the relocation of entire populations of planets. Even as Ixdahan comes up with a plan to expose the Zoktylese, readers are lulled into the angst of the ongoing human-alien romance that may be rekindled—if not thwarted by Ixdahan’s jealous alien admirer. The jarring shifts among multiple narrative perspectives and condensed intergalactic politics makes this sci-fi tale a bit heady at times, and readers may find themselves wanting to bypass what feels like filler to get to the humorous banter among characters.

Given the complexities of worldbuilding and back story, for established fans only . (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9913274-8-5

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Interesting and well written but problematic in its conceptualization of a generic Africa and Africans.

THE HAWKWEED LEGACY

Witch queen Poppy Hawkweed returns in this sequel to The Hawkweed Prophecy (2016).

After the events of the last book, Poppy attempts to escape her new life as a witch queen by transforming into a swallow and migrating to Africa, though to what part of the vast continent is unclear. There, white Poppy’s taken in by a medicine maker, Mma, and her dark-skinned great-grandson, Teko. Though Mma and Teko are initially portrayed as likable characters, they eventually imprison Poppy, ostensibly for her own good, as they’ve seen a vision that she will be killed if she returns to England. Back in England, the third-person narrative perspective shifts among characters and times. There’s Poppy’s birth mother, Charlock, both in the present and when she was younger, as well as Leo, Ember, and Betony, Leo’s mother. Through the many lenses and back stories readers learn of Leo’s conception and what became of Betony, who left the witches to have her son. Teko eventually allows Poppy to escape, and once back in England, she’s bullied into taking up her queendom. But there are many twists and turns and painful betrayals to be hashed out before there’s a chance of happily ever after. Though themes of sisterhood are strong, most female relationships are interrupted, if not broken, by male intrusion. The real unbreakable bond in these stories is that between mother and child.

Interesting and well written but problematic in its conceptualization of a generic Africa and Africans. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60286-314-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Weinstein Books

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale.

THE CHOLO TREE

Boxed in by societal prejudices, a young Chicano struggles to find his identity.

Split into two separate periods, Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal–loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life. In the book’s first half, 14-year-old Victor recovers from a shooting—he was dead for a hair over 2 minutes—that leaves him with a fuzzy memory. Almost everyone, including his mom, believes he’s a cholo, a gangbanger destined for trouble. Though Victor tries his best to mend his relationship with his mom, he frequently ends up in incriminating situations. Meanwhile, Victor meets and falls for a feisty part-Mexican, part-Indian girl. The story moves at a meandering pace, which Chacón uses to sketch in disjointed details. Victor’s first-person narration doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but each of the diverse supporting characters features a distinct, if stereotypical, voice to fill in that void. The novel’s second half focuses on 17-year-old Victor, a senior succeeding in school and love. A supportive teacher helps him refine his artistic goals, pushing him to apply for art school. But Victor’s anger and past won’t let him go, and soon he’s knee-deep in the cholo life. Overall, the author employs a well-worn redemption arc, and the often clunky, self-conscious narration doesn’t really help to make it feel fresh: “They looked sort of geeky cool, like journalism students, the kind of kids that YA novels are written about.”

A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-840-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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