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From the Arden High series , Vol. 2

High-spirited drama.

In this return to magical Arden High, previously explored in Twelfth Grade Night (2022), the hijinks take place among the jocks.

Leah King is everything a cheer captain should be: confident, hardworking, and totally assured of her own goals. Or, she was before senior year, when, faced with being wait-listed at her dream college, she flounders. She’s also struggling with queer imposter syndrome after coming out as demisexual. Chaos ensues when Leah resigns her beloved captaincy to Rae and Gabe, ambitious bullies who throw her life, the squad, and her friendship with put-upon best friend Kendall into disarray. Booth and Strohm are just as wholeheartedly committed to goofiness and fun as in the previous outing, with the interpersonal drama inspired by King Lear playing out against a slightly fantastical backdrop. That play might not seem like the most obvious choice to adapt for this particular setting, but the authors satisfyingly shift the original text while still telling a story that can be enjoyed even by those unfamiliar with the original. The earnestness sometimes veers a bit toward after-school special territory in tone but is nonetheless charming. Green’s art is confident and endearing: Strikingly unusual color palettes bring dynamism to more intense sequences, and playful backgrounds highlight the school’s unusual nature. The character designs remain a strong point, utilizing an adorably quirky cast who have diverse body types and express instantly recognizable personalities. Leah reads white; the supporting cast is racially diverse and largely queer.

High-spirited drama. (Graphic fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781368064637

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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A fast-paced dip into the possibility of a world without human emotions.

A teenage girl refuses a medical procedure to remove her heart and her emotions.

June lives in a future in which a reclusive Scientist has pioneered a procedure to remove hearts, thus eliminating all “sadness, anxiety, and anger.” The downside is that it numbs pleasurable feelings, too. Most people around June have had the procedure done; for young people, in part because doing so helps them become more focused and successful. Before long, June is the only one among her peers who still has her heart. When her parents decide it’s time for her to have the procedure so she can become more focused in school, June hatches a plan to pretend to go through with it. She also investigates a way to restore her beloved sister’s heart, joining forces with Max, a classmate who’s also researching the Scientist because he has started to feel again despite having had his heart removed. The pair’s journey is somewhat rushed and improbable, as is the resolution they achieve. However, the story’s message feels relevant and relatable to teens, and the artwork effectively sets the scene, with bursts of color popping throughout an otherwise black-and-white landscape, reflecting the monochromatic, heartless reality of June’s world. There are no ethnic or cultural markers in the text; June has paper-white skin and dark hair, and Max has dark skin and curly black hair.

A fast-paced dip into the possibility of a world without human emotions. (Graphic speculative fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9780063116214

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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A high-concept premise that falls short in its execution.

A teenage girl finds herself alone after everyone else in her town mysteriously disappears, leaving her scrambling to figure out how to find them all.

One late summer day, everybody in July Fielding’s town disappears. She is left to piece together what happened, following a series of cryptic signs she finds around town urging her to “GET THEM BACK.” The narrative moves back and forth between July’s present and the events of the summer before, when her relationship with her best friend, cross-country team co-captain Sydney, starts to fracture due to a combination of jealousy over July’s new relationship with a cute boy called Sam and sweet up-and-coming freshman Ella’s threatening to overtake Syd’s status as star of the track team. The team members participate in a ritual in which they jump off a cliff into the rocky waters below at the end of their Friday practice runs. Though Ella is reluctant, Syd pressures her to jump. Short, frenetically paced sections move the story along quickly, and there is much foreshadowing pointing to something terrible that occurred at the end of that summer, which may be the key to July’s current predicament, but there is much misdirection too. Ultimately this is a story without enough setup to make the turn the book takes in the end feel fully developed or earned. All characters read white.

A high-concept premise that falls short in its execution. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780593327173

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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