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There’s no subtlety and barely any science in this science fiction, but there is lots of action.

Action-packed space opera tells the laws of physics to sit down and shut up, to no particular detriment.

Seventeen-year-old Jeth and his band of thieves operate under the iron thumb of interstellar crime lord Hammer, who treats traitors and resisters to brutal beatings and mind-erasing brain implants. Pulling jobs for Hammer is Jeth’s only way to buy back his late parents’ spaceship and keep his 13-year-old sister out of prostitution. The current assignment requires retrieving a missing spaceship from a Bermuda Triangle–ish area of space where ships malfunction and disappear. Jeth’s crew travels there via “metaspace,” but this is no hard science fiction: “Metatech” and “metadrives” receive an eventual explanation that’s mostly hand-waving, while things that should be difficult (rerouting power from one ship to another) or dangerous (a character moves through open space by pushing off a spaceship “as if he were diving”) are easy-peasy. Arnett’s fast-paced plot spotlights gun battles, twists and memorably grotesque damage to spaceships and bodies. As Jeth makes unsavory deals and repeatedly finds himself betrayed, a threat to billions of lives connects with his personal mission. Thoughtful readers (or anyone who’s seen Star Trek) will wonder whether the implied sequel will address a core moral atrocity at the root of metatech that this volume ignores.

There’s no subtlety and barely any science in this science fiction, but there is lots of action. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-223559-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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