A stunning and compassionate portrait of a young woman fighting to retain her sense of self under a repressive regime.

In 1980s East Germany, where everyone is always watching, all Lena Altmann wants to do is disappear.

After her parents die in a factory accident, Lena has a nervous breakdown, drops out of high school, and is taken in by her Aunt Adelheid, the widow of a high-ranking member of the Communist Party. Auntie does her best to take care of Lena, securing her a coveted position as a night janitor at the headquarters of the Stasi, or secret police. Although she knows she should be grateful, Lena hates the job, not only because it makes people fear her, but also because an officer she nicknames Herr Dreck (Mr. Filth) sexually assaults her in his office every night. The only person who makes Lena happy is her Uncle Erich, a writer. When he disappears, a devastated Lena knows she must risk everything to find out what really happened to him. The narrative pulses with suspense due to a skillfully rendered cast of characters that are repeatedly forced to choose between preserving their humanity or their lives. The rich historical details plunge readers into a chillingly realistic world where it is impossible for citizens to trust each other and in which Lena struggles with mental illness, sexual assault, and grief.

A stunning and compassionate portrait of a young woman fighting to retain her sense of self under a repressive regime. (Historical fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77321-071-1

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018


From the Quarantine series , Vol. 3

By far, the fastest and funniest of the series.

The final installment of Thomas’ gross-out Quarantine series.

Will has escaped the school and reunited with his brother, David. After a short, solitary quarantine, Will’s pronounced virus-free and brought into the parent-run operation that feeds and protects the school. Back inside the school, Lucy’s clique, the Sluts, blames her for the disastrous fight between the Sluts and Saints. They kick her out, and once again, the plot centers on the difficulties faced by a character who is clique-less, at the social ladder’s bottom rung. Lucy’s complication, however, is an unplanned pregnancy. When word about Lucy’s hardships comes to Will and David, Will sneaks back in to rescue her, equipped with a gas mask whose filter is nearly used up. David chases after to save him from the virus, and the love triangle is re-established. Their race against clogged filters keeps the plot moving quickly. Meanwhile, Lucy’s found a new clique, the Burnouts. Seeking a renewable drug source, Burnouts ferment their own waste to get high on the fumes and masturbate. So shocking it’s funny, poop’s refreshing for readers numbed by the edgy-for-the-sake-of-edgy previous violence and rampant prostitution. Meanwhile, David’s ex, Hilary (a cardboard evil-lunatic villain), finds a gun. The ending, of course, offers enough death to appease the fan base.

By far, the fastest and funniest of the series. (Science fiction. 16-18)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60684-338-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Freaks of Nature

From the The Psion Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A fun, fast-paced tale about seven young, immensely powerful prisoners.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A YA thriller blends sci-fi, post-apocalyptic fiction, and a coming-of-age story.

In a near future when humanity has been laid low by a global pandemic, the vaccine that essentially saves the human race from eradication causes unforeseen side effects: a small percentage of the population is born with inexplicable mental abilities. Called psions, these children with intensely blue “starburst” eyes and unimaginable powers are forcibly separated from their families and sent to special institutions, which are more like prisons than schools. The storyline revolves around Devon McWilliams, a young psion (with the power to communicate with plants) whose failed attempt to escape his psi facility in the Badlands of North Dakota lands him in a mysterious government lockup with other detainees. Headed for death—or worse—the seven young psions include a butt-kicking telepath named Bai Lee Chen, the daughter of a U.S. senator, and a girl named Alya with healing powers who turns out to be Devon’s love interest. They must figure out a way to escape and find the mythical Psionic Underground Network (“They were all trapped within the same sinking vessel,” Devon muses. “In order to survive, they would have to find a way to work together”). Powered by adept writing, relentless pacing, numerous action scenes, and a cast of fully realized and authentic characters, this novel is undeniably a page-turner. But it is not without its faults. There are stories within the main story here: first-person narratives told from varying characters’ perspectives. While some of these are fully fleshed out, others seem rushed and incomplete. Additionally, the relationship between Devon and Alya comes across as contrived. The biggest flaw, however, involves the conclusion. After building tension throughout the entire tale, the book delivers an action sequence at the end that’s far too abrupt. And although Brotherlin (Monsters in the M.A.C., 1996) adequately examines potentially weighty YA themes like acceptance and self-confidence, some readers may be left wanting more thematic depth and profundity.

A fun, fast-paced tale about seven young, immensely powerful prisoners.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63392-006-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2016

Close Quickview