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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Scary in all the right places, with a strong setup for the sequel

THE NOTORIOUS PAGAN JONES

In 1961, a troubled but immensely clever starlet is roped into dangerous Cold War intrigue.

Sixteen-year-old Pagan, an up-and-coming actress in 1950s and ’60s Hollywood, lost everything when she killed her father and baby sister with a drunken swerve of her Corvette. Now she's just another inmate at the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls, struggling with sobriety and self-loathing. Salvation comes from an unlikely source: her old studio sends a dashing young man to fetch her from jail. Devin Black is darkly handsome, irritatingly attentive, and an obvious liar. Why would he be so desperate to drag a jailbird actress off to West Berlin? How did he get so powerful, able to bend studio executives and judges to his will? In a divided Berlin, Pagan runs the risk of being swamped by geopolitical danger from Communist East Germans—and the ongoing temptation of alcohol. Her prodigious competence at everything she attempts, from acting to espionage, would make her unbelievable if Berry did not temper it so well with her struggles with addiction. Loving descriptions of early-’60s fashion and lustfully purple descriptions of Devin (with eyes like "shards of stained glass shaded from indigo to azure" or "turbulent seas on a blustery night") don't distract from the well-paced historical thriller.

Scary in all the right places, with a strong setup for the sequel . (Suspense. 13-15)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-373-21143-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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A patchy but occasionally powerful mix of family drama, late-’60s culture clashes, and wilderness adventure.

BACK HOME

From the Secondhand Summer series , Vol. 2

His big brother’s return from Vietnam with wounds both physical and psychological shakes up a 16-year-old Alaskan’s familiar world of girls, guns, and clueless grown-ups.

Three years after his father’s death and the move to Anchorage recounted in Secondhand Summer (2016), Sam Barger is left at home with just his fretful mom—until, that is, his strong, admired brother, Joe, comes back from the war with crutches, nightmares, flashbacks, and a heavy drinking habit. Almost as upsetting as the changes he sees in his brother, the flak Sam is already catching for his long hair and for joining a peace march (partly from conviction, partly in pursuit of Iris, an activist schoolmate willing to share the occasional snog and joint) intensifies as news of Joe’s return gets around. When Sam takes off on his own for the family’s old cabin in Ninilchik, Joe follows, setting up a hunting expedition and an accident that tests Sam’s heart as well as his abilities to build a fire (using “squaw kindling”), butcher a moose, and complete other outdoorsy tasks. Aside from a classmate who identifies himself as “a half-breed Athabascan,” the cast presents largely White, with the three women given significant roles stereotyped as a hand-wringer (Sam’s mother) and two temptresses. Walker does better with his guys, and perceptive readers will see that the brothers’ underlying ties remain firm beneath their banter.

A patchy but occasionally powerful mix of family drama, late-’60s culture clashes, and wilderness adventure. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5132-6269-7

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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