A familiar paranormal fantasy energized by head wounds and plot twists.

WAER

A new world of shape-shifters and a time-honored battle between good and evil come alive in Caddy's debut fantasy for teens.

Lowell Sencha leads the simple life of a farmer, looking after his little brother and helping him as he learns to Shift. Shifting transforms the peaceful Gwydhan Valley waer, Lowell's people, from human to wolf. When Lowell rescues Lycaea—a mysterious young woman who has been tortured and turned into a waer—the valley's serenity is shattered as the tyrant Daeman Leldh's soldiers pursue Lycaea and murder everyone in their path, including Lowell's family. To add to the shock, Lowell learns the truth behind a childhood legend: the Watchers (a Healer, Assassin, Dealer triad) are actually real, ancient power brokers responsible for maintaining balance between good and evil. With his world turned upside down, Lowell has no choice but to follow Lycaea in her quest for vengeance, but as Lycaea struggles with accepting her waer identity and reveals more about her painful past, Lowell must decide if he can trust Lycaea's schemes with the Watchers…or Lycaea herself. Despite thorough worldbuilding with echoes of Australian Aboriginal shape-shifting lore, the narrative’s nonetheless predominantly white cast and occasional sacrifice of developed character motivations in favor of visceral action scenes feel like missed opportunities.

A familiar paranormal fantasy energized by head wounds and plot twists. (Fantasy. 12-17)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-922182-21-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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