A slow but richly atmospheric read.

THE PECULIARS

Lonely Lena Mattacascar heads to the border to find a father she barely remembers and an answer to her unusual appearance.

Armed with a letter and money from her absent father, 18-year-old Lena leaves her dour mother and grandmother and takes the train toward Scree—wilderness, penal colony and rumored reservation for Peculiars, humanoid creatures with tell-tale abnormalities. Cursed with elongated fingers and feet, Lena both fears that she may be a Peculiar and hopes that she may find acceptance in Scree. Obstacles plague Lena’s journey, and she is soon stranded in the faded seaside town of Knob Knoster. While seeking a guide and more money for her expedition, she finds herself working at Mr. Beasley’s steampunk-esque Zephyr House alongside the endearingly earnest librarian Jimson Quiggley, on a secret mission from the charismatic blackmailer Marshal Saltre. Set in a vaguely Victorian world, Gothic elements permeate the story: a mysterious house, an abundance of secrets, odd servants and competing romantic figures, though Lena’s shame over her abnormalities alienates her from both Saltre and Quigley. The sporadic action scenes feel artificial, but the ambiguity surrounding the existence of Peculiars and the origin of their physical deformities—magic? genetics?—is thought-provoking.

A slow but richly atmospheric read. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0178-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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A slight, stilted take on a weighty issue. (Fiction. 12-16)

#NOTREADYTODIE

A school shooting changes dozens of lives.

Ginny is crouching under a desk in her homeroom, like the rest of her classmates. An unknown shooter attacked right after the start of school, wounding their substitute teacher and Ginny’s crush, Owen, and putting the school on lockdown. As the hours pass, the Canadian teens from a town outside Toronto, all apparently white, struggle to cope. The situation makes Ginny, a cutter who began self-harming after her father’s death, wish for a razor. But a new friend helps: Kayla, a cheerleader Ginny has always dismissed as a Barbie and who happens to have an uncanny amount of medical knowledge for a teenager who volunteers at a veterans’ hospital. Together, they work to keep their fellow students safe until they can be rescued—but will it be in time for the injured? While Ginny’s first-person narration and the Twitter posts at the end of each chapter help to build suspense, the plot digressions to Ginny’s dead gay uncle, her former best friend, and her stunned realization about a classmate’s sexuality dissipate that tension and undercut the seriousness. In addition, the clunky dialogue and short length do not allow the characters to feel like realistic teens. The treatment of sexual orientation in the portrayals of two gay teens, one whom girls try to “convert” while the other is outed by a gay peer, raises troubling questions.

A slight, stilted take on a weighty issue. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-988761-39-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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This bland techno-thriller has plenty of action but not quite enough style.

CODE NAME KOMIKO

A teenage hacktivist and her online comrades encounter danger and betrayal when they begin investigating a fashion mogul’s business operations in Hong Kong.

Lian leads a double life. Offline, she is her parents’ “Little Panda,” the studious, obedient daughter of an affluent family; online, she is Komiko, a trusted member of 06/04, a pseudonymous group of hackers dedicated to exposing government and corporate wrongdoing. Her two worlds collide with a vengeance after a corpse washes up on Big Wave Bay Beach, as Lian soon stumbles upon a link between the dead girl and one of her father’s business partners, Rand Harrison. Her situation becomes even more complicated when Harrison’s smarmy son, Matt, transfers into her school, where their paths cross regularly. Lian’s readiness to risk her own safety to secure evidence of Harrison’s crimes makes for a fast-paced story, marked by narrow escapes and high-speed chases. Alas, the technological action fizzles in comparison, as Lian’s elite hacker research appears to consist mostly of basic Web searches. In addition, the novel’s Hong Kong feels more like a movie set than a lived-in city, and it doesn’t help that even the non-American characters often speak colloquially American dialogue.

This bland techno-thriller has plenty of action but not quite enough style. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62324-023-3

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Scarlet Voyage/Enslow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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