A powerful, bleak, and penetrating portrait of an isolated young woman excelling in unimaginable danger

ORPHAN MONSTER SPY

From the Orphan Monster Spy series , Vol. 1

A half-Jewish girl in Nazi Germany passes up a chance to escape in favor of the opportunity to screw with Nazis.

Sarah’s mother is shot as they try to flee, but a stranger in a dark warehouse gives the bleeding, grieving Sarah good advice to avoid detection. When Sarah later sees the stranger being harassed by the police, she interrupts her own planned escape to save him. Her new ally, she learns, is a British spy, and she defies his attempt to help her to freedom. Wouldn’t it be better to stay and hurt the Nazis? Fifteen-year-old blonde Sarah looks not only Aryan but young: she’s as small as an 11-year-old. Home-schooled by her mother (who was an actress before the Nuremberg Laws left her unemployed, alcoholic, and abusive), Sarah’s skilled at playacting and languages. She’s even turned her gymnastics experience into a kind of parkour to avoid anti-Semitic violence and steal food. In other words, she’s a perfect spy. Disguised as the 13-year-old daughter of a Nazi official, she infiltrates an elite school. If she can befriend one of her classmates, the daughter of a nuclear physicist, she might save the Allies. Killeen’s thriller is cold, exciting, and well-paced, but its major plot point—the physicist’s independent development of a superweapon—is so James Bond it undercuts the real-world horror that was the Holocaust. Sarah’s coming-of-age and psychological crisis are so well-drawn, however, that the plot’s flaws are forgivable.

A powerful, bleak, and penetrating portrait of an isolated young woman excelling in unimaginable danger . (Historical thriller. 13-16)

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47873-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded.

ANGEL THIEVES

A Texas bayou holds memories and secrets, weaving together people and animals through connected histories.

Buffalo Bayou takes her place as part of an ensemble cast that spans nearly two centuries. Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is a white boy who works alongside his father stealing angel statues from cemeteries for an antiques dealer, and Soleil Broussard is a 16-year-old Creole Christian with a tiny honey bear jar tattooed on her wrist. The two attend school together in present-day Houston, Texas, but the story intertwines their connection with stories of slaves and an ocelot in a narrative that runs away like the rushing of a river. Texas is a gorgeous backdrop for the story, eliciting haunting imagery that spotlights the natural beauty of the state. Each character helps piece together a quilt of experiences that stream from the omnipresent bayou who sees, hears, and protects, and the revelations of their overlapping connections are well-paced throughout. The novel is less successful, however, at underscoring why there are so many voices battling for space in the text. Too-short vignettes that are rather haphazardly forced together provide glimpses into the lives of the characters but make it difficult to follow all of the threads. While an author’s note offers historical background explaining the inspiration for the characters, it does not provide sufficient cohesion.

Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2109-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Suspenseful and clever, intertwining historical truth with action-packed shootouts.

CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE

A former intimate of Adolf Hitler returns to prewar Germany to save her beloved, all while fighting the rising power of the Nazi Party.

In this sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog (2014), 18-year-old Gretchen returns to her native land in 1933, as the Nazis become ever more firmly entrenched in German politics. Gretchen and her Jewish beau, Daniel, seek the truth about the (real-life) Reichstag fire in order to discredit Hitler and the National Socialists. If only they can prove Hitler is lying about the arsonists, surely they can prevent him from gaining a stranglehold on German politics. The tight interweaving of Gretchen's journey with historical events lends a sense of the genuine—and results in the fascinating experience of following a quest readers know is doomed to fail. As Gretchen winds ever closer to the inevitable confrontation with her formerly loving "Uncle Dolf," it becomes increasingly unclear what she can salvage from the rising horror of Nazism. Mixed in with the bleak reality are adventure-novel goodies to maintain the pace: organized crime, prostitution and cocaine. Gretchen's too inwardly focused to see danger in Hitler's rise beyond the risk to herself and her friends, but Daniel provides rare if vital perspective.

Suspenseful and clever, intertwining historical truth with action-packed shootouts. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227884-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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