An utterly sublime debut and a must for pop-culture fans.

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CITIZEN SIM

CRADLE OF THE STARS

In this YA sci-fi debut, a young man mysteriously gets smarter while dreaming and invents a life-changing device.

Fifteen-year-old Johnny Clark of River City, New Jersey, loves junk food and the Internet as much as he loathes school. He’s a mediocre student (who barely passed algebra), and yet he’s somehow built a small, battery-powered device from scratch; what the electronic device does, he’s not sure. When Johnny realizes that the knowledge to create it has come from his dreams, his slacker friend, Billy, notices his anxiety. He tries to cheer Johnny up with the latest headline about Citizen Sim, a hacker/prankster who’s targeted Google and Times Square. It also occurs to Johnny that he’d dreamed accurately about Citizen Sim before the anonymous hacker even appeared. Soon, Johnny’s reality starts to become dreamlike when his trigonometry class is briefly interrupted by four nearly naked strangers. Later, as he’s called to the principal’s office at the request of two detectives, fearsome skeletal creatures begin stalking him. A message from Citizen Sim appears on a television screen telling him to “ENTER THE CODE.” He types furiously into the device, and it displays the word “Gone.” Johnny, without immediately knowing it, turns invisible, and everything about his life changes. Debut author Solana crams enormous detail into setting up a delicious, go-anywhere plot. His narrative thrives on showing readers the unexpected, doing so in a giddy, winking tone. “The Clarks,” for example, “were the most dreadfully ordinary people.” Solana also revels in numerous geeky nods to superheroes (such as the Fantastic Four’s Susan Storm) and video games. As the book becomes more of a cyberspace action/love story, it expands into gorgeously rendered terrain (especially the overgrown Penn Station as a “living jewel”). Solana’s cliffhanger ending is perfect, too.

An utterly sublime debut and a must for pop-culture fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1632260130

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Thought Catalog Books/Prospecta Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 1

In a radical departure from her realistic fiction and comic chronicles of Anastasia, Lowry creates a chilling, tightly controlled future society where all controversy, pain, and choice have been expunged, each childhood year has its privileges and responsibilities, and family members are selected for compatibility.

As Jonas approaches the "Ceremony of Twelve," he wonders what his adult "Assignment" will be. Father, a "Nurturer," cares for "newchildren"; Mother works in the "Department of Justice"; but Jonas's admitted talents suggest no particular calling. In the event, he is named "Receiver," to replace an Elder with a unique function: holding the community's memories—painful, troubling, or prone to lead (like love) to disorder; the Elder ("The Giver") now begins to transfer these memories to Jonas. The process is deeply disturbing; for the first time, Jonas learns about ordinary things like color, the sun, snow, and mountains, as well as love, war, and death: the ceremony known as "release" is revealed to be murder. Horrified, Jonas plots escape to "Elsewhere," a step he believes will return the memories to all the people, but his timing is upset by a decision to release a newchild he has come to love. Ill-equipped, Jonas sets out with the baby on a desperate journey whose enigmatic conclusion resonates with allegory: Jonas may be a Christ figure, but the contrasts here with Christian symbols are also intriguing.

Wrought with admirable skill—the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned...

THE HUNGER GAMES

From the Hunger Games series , Vol. 1

Katniss Everdeen is a survivor.

She has to be; she’s representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district. With clear inspiration from Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and the Greek tale of Theseus, Collins has created a brilliantly imagined dystopia, where the Capitol is rich and the rest of the country is kept in abject poverty, where the poor battle to the death for the amusement of the rich. However, poor copyediting in the first printing will distract careful readers—a crying shame. [Note: Errors have been corrected in subsequent printings, so we are now pleased to apply the Kirkus star.]

Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned trilogy, as good as The Giver and more exciting. (Science fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-02348-1

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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