These girls are less wild than troubled.

WILD GIRLS

In the dying Appalachian town of Swan River, Kate Riordan attends the rather elite Academy for Girls. She’s a local girl, torn between her hometown roots and her desire to escape. 

Atwell’s debut novel examines the violence simmering among adolescent girls and their friendships. Kate’s mother and older sister seem stuck with dead-end jobs and underwhelming boyfriends. Swan River is cursed not only with simmering rage rooted in economic failure, but also with its shrouded history of wild girls. Every so often, teenage girls suddenly begin to glow, set things on fire with just their fingertips, massacre townspeople and sometimes even fly. The danger seems to derive from the poorest section of town, Bloodwort Road, where the witchlike Mrs. Lemons tells frightening fortunes; her daughter Crystal seems particularly unstable; and her son Mason seeks his own escape by dating Academy girls. Yet, the Academy isn’t as far removed from Bloodwort Road as Kate hopes. Her best friend, the popular Willow, is adept at collecting girls—her minions, as Kate mockingly calls them—yet she convinces Kate to set her up with Mason. Kate’s other best friend, Caroline, has already begun researching the history of the wild girls. Dr. Bell, the Academy’s headmaster and teacher of “Myths and Mysteries,” stokes her interest in the local legend by linking it to the disturbing Greek maenads. When Crystal turns wild one night, burning down most of Bloodwort Road and Willow provokes Mason into a jealous confrontation, Kate begins to realize that Mason and Swan River may mean more to her than Willow and the Academy. But the wilding isn’t over yet. Unfortunately, the suspense drags rather than builds, and events move along sluggishly toward a predictable confrontation.

These girls are less wild than troubled.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8327-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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