Happy families may not all be alike, but they can be a little dull. Still, the characters are so well-drawn that many...

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THE TRUTH ABOUT LEAVING

Writing about nice people is always a risk.

Lucy and Dov may be nice, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. Dov’s brother died in a sudden accident, and Lucy has just been dumped by her boyfriend. And Dov, a transfer student from Israel, isn’t always nice. He can be argumentative and sometimes refuses to speak at all. But for most of the novel, the two of them get along so well that there’s no conflict. They drink cider and eat doughnuts. They talk about poetry. The book’s central dilemma is that any relationship they have will be short-lived; Dov wants to serve in the Israeli army, while Lucy has plans to go to college near her family in Chicago (With few physical descriptions, the characters seem to be more multinational than racially diverse. Dov has blue eyes, and Lucy’s best friend is described as pale. Lucy’s grandmother has a female partner.) Creative readers will come up with all sorts of ways to solve the problem, but in the book, even after a solution presents itself, the characters keep on arguing. Maybe they just love drama. In one scene, Dov moodily decides to go running during a tornado watch.

Happy families may not all be alike, but they can be a little dull. Still, the characters are so well-drawn that many readers will have a very nice time in their company. (Fiction. 14-19)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948705-09-7

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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A slow, hazy beginning eventually sharpens before charging into an electric, enchanting end.

A SONG BELOW WATER

Two young women literally and figuratively embody #BlackGirlMagic.

Sixteen and with deep brown skin, Tavia is a siren who uses American Sign Language to push against the mesmerizing call that burns like a fire in her throat and could mean being silenced forever if it is released. Plagued with mysterious body ailments and no knowledge of her biological heritage to inform a diagnosis, light-brown–skinned 16-year-old Effie, Tavia’s sister-by-choice, is haunted by survivor’s guilt after a traumatic childhood incident. Portland, Oregon, provides a memorable setting for Morrow’s solid and intentional unpacking of myths around black people and their aversion to water activities through their stories. Chapters alternating first-person narration between the two protagonists set up Tavia to often be the voice of social justice inquiry, especially regarding prejudice against sirens, who are always black women. Effie’s storyline focuses on a different type of identity exploration as she untangles her complicated family history. Lengthy exposition with confusing plot turns and a reveal of ethnically diverse magical beings and their powers slows the first part of the book. The action picks up toward the middle, rising to create an exciting new contemporary fantasy. In this parallel world, black female empowerment is standing up for yourself and others while simultaneously navigating love, physical and emotional violence, and the responsibility of immense supernatural power.

A slow, hazy beginning eventually sharpens before charging into an electric, enchanting end. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31532-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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