This one’s a page-turner.

DOTWAV

Combining a love of science fiction with modern technology and some very original thinking, this novel takes a look at some of society’s preconceived notions from a slightly off-kilter view.

Biracial English 15-year-old Ani Lee is used to taking care of herself: her Vietnamese mother is hospitalized in a mental institution after a horrible suicide attempt, and her white father is off pursuing some shady business ventures. For Ani, hacking into restricted websites is both easy and good fun, though her best friend and hacking partner is someone she’s never met. But when he sends her a secret .wav file, Ani finds out how alone in the world she really is, because now men with guns are trying to kidnap her for that file. It’s only by chance that she runs into 17-year-old Joe Dyson, a white American living in London, at an underground concert. Joe is an operative for the Youth Enforcement Task Initiative, a secret section of British Intelligence, who goes where only teens can blend in. Together, they have to solve exactly what the .wav file is, who wants it, and what makes it so important. Too many lives are at stake and someone’s pulling the strings, using music to gather the world’s youth into one massive, mindless army. But whose? The third-person narration alternates between Ani and Joe, weaving both psychological back story and futuristic sci-fi elements through the story. Though it takes its time, it never drags, parceling out plot details and worldbuilding in classic thriller fashion.

This one’s a page-turner. (Thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0404-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise.

WHERE SHE FELL

A teenager battles social anxiety disorder and giant bugs in a subterranean world.

When two bad friends to whom she’s been clinging trick her into venturing into the ominously named Drowners Swamp, Eliza falls into a sinkhole that leads into a seemingly endless cave system. Being an avid fan of caves and geology, Eliza is as enthralled as she is terrified—a mix of emotions that remains unaltered as she encounters a small community of likewise trapped people surviving on a diet of outsized spiders and cave insects. Weeks later she is captured (briefly, thanks to a conveniently timed spider attack) by bioluminescent humanoids. All the while, despite having been in therapy for years, she continually denigrates herself for panic attacks and freezing up around others. Her emotional reactions take up so much of the narrative, in fact, that for all its lurid, occasionally gruesome turns, it’s hard to tell whether character or action drives the story more. In the event, Eliza is surprised to find reserves of inner strength—and a chance at personal transformation—through her ordeal. The first-person narration is punctuated with excerpts and sketches from Eliza’s journal. Except for one character with brown skin, the nonglowing cast defaults to white. Warring themes and elements give this outing a distinct feel of multiple stories yoked together by violence.

Melodramatic but definitively all over the place contentwise. (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23007-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Provocative fare for students of the themes and tropes of literary and traditional folk literature.

FEATHERS, PAWS, FINS, AND CLAWS

FAIRY-TALE BEASTS

Ten “vintage tales” chosen to challenge assumptions that fairy stories offer cut-and-dried values and life lessons for, specifically, children.

Reaching for an audience that is, as the editors put it, “beyond childhood,” the collection is introduced with an eye-opening analysis of “Little Red Riding Hood” (Perrault’s actual wording, it seems, hints that Little Red and the wolf weren’t exactly strangers) as part of a broad claim that fairy tales are often transgressive. The ensuing mix of original and traditional stories, all either written or first translated into English in the Victorian era, includes tales both familiar and un-. There’s “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon”; “Ballad of the Bird-Bride,” which is a selkie variant featuring a sea gull; a “Puss-in-Boots” antecedent (“Costantino Fortunato”) from 16th-century Italy; and a Punjabi tale about a rat who almost parlays a bit of found root into marriage to a princess. For younger readers, the highlight is likely to be Joseph Jacobs' rendition of “The Story of the Three Bears,” as the home invader is not Goldilocks but a foulmouthed old homeless woman. But the selections are held up more for analysis than enjoyment, even Madame d’Aulnoy’s “Babiole,” which makes for labored reading despite an eponymous princess who spends most of the tale as a monkey. Kusaite’s visual jumbles of patterns and textures are as mannered as the 19th-century prose.

Provocative fare for students of the themes and tropes of literary and traditional folk literature. (source notes) (Fairy tales. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8143-4069-1

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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