A vividly realized fantasy world centering strong girls and chosen family.

Girls battle for their families in this West African–inspired world.

Sixteen-year-old Sis Dirt used to compete in the girls’ martial art of Bowing. Their training builds up to the God Bow tournament, from which come new recruits who become sisters in a Fam. As an elder and the Second sister of the Mud Fam, which only has the bare minimum of five members, Dirt is tasked with coaching younger Bowers in hopes of boosting their Fam’s status and replenishing their ranks. If their numbers drop below five, Mud Fam will be disbanded. When she turns 17, each sister officially becomes a woman: She has her Scarring ceremony, travels to Antie Yaya’s compound, and leaves her Fam forever—and Dirt turns 17 shortly after the next tournament, making victory more crucial. Sis Webba, the First and their star Bower, has a chance of winning it all, but when another competitor injures her with an illegal move, the family’s hopes fall on Dirt, who is next in line but out of practice, out of shape, and lacking the confidence that she can save them. Mud Fam’s underdog status and Dirt’s journey are easy to root for. The immersive worldbuilding paints a picture of a community with a compelling social structure and lore, populated by Black girls who glory in their strength and large size. The fluid dialogue is written in an expressive pidgin.

A vividly realized fantasy world centering strong girls and chosen family. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66591-813-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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