DARKBEAST

Tightly woven and carefully constructed fantasy.

Life in Keara’s world is determined by adherence to strictures unchanged through generations.

Yearly tithes must be paid and marked by indelible wrist tattoos. The gods must be honored, and the Primate must be obeyed, all under the eyes of powerful Inquisitors. But most fearsome of all for Keara is the unbreakable rule demanding that children reaching the age of 12 must kill their darkbeasts in order to prepare for adulthood. The raven Caw has been Keara’s darkbeast, her constant companion and dearest friend, whose function has been to take upon himself all her faults and negative emotions. Keara rebels, takes Caw and joins the Travelers, a group of actors who put on proscribed, unchanging plays about the gods and allowable new plays about ordinary folk. Challenges and adventures abound, but Keara is strong-willed and feisty and always has Caw’s support, conveyed in intense telepathic dialogue. Keyes employs vaguely antique language to describe a richly imagined universe that has elements of the biblical and the medieval mixed with Greco-Roman–influenced mythology. Keara narrates her own story, allowing supporting characters to become more complex as her understanding expands with maturity. She is not alone in her rebellion. There are lots of loose ends and unresolved relationships and a rather obvious hint at a possible sequel.

Tightly woven and carefully constructed fantasy. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4205-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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