A satisfying conclusion to a rich world of story.

THE STORY KING

From the Sunlit Lands series , Vol. 3

The Sunlit Lands are unraveling.

A year has passed since the events of The Heartwood Crown (2019), and readers find the surviving characters scattered and still looking for answers. Madeline’s sacrifice broke all magic and bonds, the aftereffects of which the Elenil, Scim, and humans work to reconcile. Some attempt to rebuild, some fight for a new way, while others look for scapegoats. Jason Wu, Darius Walker, Shula Bishara, and Gilenyia will uncover the mysteries behind the creation of the Sunlit Lands and the terrible secret of the Elenil in order to overcome the pain of their personal tragedies. The setting of the story is heavily influenced by recent events and social debates: It weaves in themes and discussion around false truths and those who believe them without seeking further, the systemic nature of White privilege, extremism (the Vain Boys are a group akin to the Proud Boys), and the dangers of being Black in contemporary America—and even touches upon the problem of Asian Americans being treated like a monolith. Christian references are similarly a part of the fabric of the story. Though at times heavy-handed in expressing political views, the novel highlights many important historical and current issues within a fantasy-world context. This trilogy closer will best be appreciated by readers familiar with the earlier volumes.

A satisfying conclusion to a rich world of story. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4964-4785-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Wander

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters.

RETRO

A no-technology challenge in a small Northern California town turns sinister.

After Samantha shoplifts but lets her friend Luna take the fall for her crime, Luna is rightfully enraged—and not least because her mother, a Spanish immigrant, is at risk of losing her visa to remain in the U.S., making any sort of criminal activity especially harmful. Luna uploads a video of a drunk Samantha bad-mouthing her friends and other classmates to Limbo, the social media app everyone’s obsessed with. Even though she has regrets and deletes it shortly after, she isn’t fast enough, and the video goes viral. The harsh response results in Samantha’s attempting to take her own life. The fact that she survives alleviates some of Luna’s guilt, but she still sends a private message to the app developers, explaining her role in what happened and asking for their help as she seeks accountability. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Limbo CEO comes to their school and proposes a challenge: Any student who manages to go the entire school year without using technology, including their phones, will receive a full-ride scholarship to college. As the year progresses, however, some of Luna’s friends disappear and the real nature of #RetroChallenge becomes clear. Though the fast pace will appeal to reluctant readers, it comes at the expense of character development and relationship-building, making it hard to feel attached to any of them. The stilted dialogue poses another obstacle.

A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66590-275-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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