Slow to develop its promising premise.

LEAGUE OF AMERICAN TRAITORS

When 17-year-old Jasper loses his parents within months of each other, he finds himself lost in a conspiracy that forces him to choose whether to run, kill, or die.

As the only living descendant of Benedict Arnold, Jasper becomes a target of the Libertines, a group composed of descendants of America’s original revolutionaries. After an attempt on his life, Jasper is shipped off to a run-down school in Vermont run by the titular league, the descendants of famous American traitors. There he must learn the dueling code because, as he learns, as soon as he turns 18, he will begin receiving challenges from Libertines. And the only options are to duel and win or duel and die. Jasper’s inheritance also includes his father’s research, which he hopes will provide another way out. But further attacks and a budding romance are constant distractions. Witty banter, a clever premise, and the constant threat of danger keep the pages turning despite the story’s lack of momentum. Characters grapple with the issues of honor and responsibility. Others are forced to deal with the deaths of friends and family and the guilt of taking a life. Unfortunately, while the story unpacks some little-known moments in American history, the pacing will make this only slightly more interesting than reading a textbook. And like most U.S. history textbooks’, the cast is a largely white one.

Slow to develop its promising premise. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0735-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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