An unusual and intriguing puzzle of a book.

MESSENGER OF FEAR

From the Messenger of Fear series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Mara thinks she might be dead when she wakes up in a mist and finds herself with a strange boy dressed in black and displaying frightening supernatural powers.

Neither Mara nor readers will understand what’s going on until the final pages of this interesting paranormal mystery, but readers, at least, can have plenty of fun speculating about it. The boy, the titular Messenger of Fear, tells Mara that she is not dead but that she has become his apprentice—apparently by her own choice. Her response is emotional when Messenger shows her the suicide of a high school girl named Samantha. As part of her training, the Messenger then demonstrates his task when they follow a couple that commits a wrong, giving them the option of winning a gruesome game or facing their worst fears. Later, Mara will begin to understand what that choice means when she witnesses a boy being burned at the stake, a scene described in gruesome detail. But the story keeps returning to Samantha, and Mara begins to anticipate the punishment of the girl who knowingly bullied Samantha, literally, to death. Grant only slowly unveils the reason Mara is with the Messenger, building tension and atmosphere expertly for maximum impact. Readers will find that in the end, it all comes together extremely well.

An unusual and intriguing puzzle of a book. (Paranormal suspense. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220740-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Will appeal to fans of fast-moving fantasy adventures.

CAST IN FIRELIGHT

From the Wickery series , Vol. 1

Pledged to each other since childhood, Adraa and Jatin navigate the complex politics of their respective kingdoms.

Adraa is the heir to Belwar, and while powerful in most types of magic, she has yet to take the royal ceremony to prove her competency in all nine forms and, with it, her right to someday rule. With half its population Untouched by the Gods—unable to use magic—Belwar struggles with inequities between the Touched and Untouched, reminiscent of societal class divisions. Adraa’s strong sense of duty to her people leads her to fight against the corruption within her kingdom. Jatin, heir to their more magical neighbor Naupure, has spent years polishing his nine colors of magic at the academy, away from the realities of ruling. He and Adraa compare their magical prowess and progress through letters. When Jatin finally leaves the academy, a series of mishaps results in both of them hiding their true identities even as they grow closer in their fight against a ruthless gang. This intricate world with magic-fueled, action-packed fight scenes and snarky, colloquial banter is loosely infused with Asian Indian cultural references. The story also discusses questions of gender inequality, freedom, self-worth, and identity. Adraa and Jatin both have black hair; in contrast to the cover image, the text makes clear that Adraa is very dark-skinned while Jatin has lighter brown skin.

Will appeal to fans of fast-moving fantasy adventures. (deities and their powers, author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12421-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers...

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE

Love blooms between two teens—a white girl who refuses to be judged and a biracial boy who hides himself from judgment.

Libby Strout was once America's Fattest Teen, whose house had to be cut open to allow her to be taken to the hospital. After three years of weight loss and counseling, Libby's returning to school, where Jack Masselin is the big man on campus. Full of swagger and the life of the party, Jack has developed this persona to hide the truth about himself: he can't recognize faces due to a condition known as prosopagnosia—he doesn't even recognize himself except by his Afro. When Jack grabs Libby in a cruel “game” called Fat Girl Rodeo, she punches him in the mouth, and they both wind up in group counseling. Spending time together will inspire each of them to become stronger, and slowly a kind of friendship develops that turns into more. The narration alternates between the two, effectively getting readers into both kids’ heads. The discomfort and fear that Jack feels come through clearly, as he constantly rehearses the “identifiers” of everyone he knows in order to avoid embarrassing mistakes, as do Libby's particular anxieties: will she get stuck behind her desk? Will her peers ever see her for herself?

More a story about falling in love with yourself than with a romantic interest, this novel will resonate with all readers who’ve struggled to love themselves. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75592-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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