A breathless, unsettling read

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UNWHOLLY

From the Unwind Dystology series , Vol. 2

After surviving the attack on the Happy Jack Harvest Camp, the heroes from Unwind (2007) lead the revolt against the Unwind Accord.

Connor, aka the Akron AWOL, now heads up the resistance at the Graveyard, an abandoned airfield where 700-plus unwind escapees live in hiding. His wheelchair-bound girlfriend, Risa, who also survived the attack, serves as the Graveyard’s nurse. Lev, a former tithe, now leads missions to rescue other tithes from unwinding and sends them to a camp where they can cope. Enter Cam, a schizophrenic, teenage Frankenstein built from the body parts of 99 different unwound teens. Shusterman mercifully supplies a Q&A at the front of this sequel to help readers fill in details from Book 1 in the trilogy. He also does an expert job of plunging them headfirst into his disturbing, dystopic and dangerous future world where teenagers are either handed over by their parents or kidnapped for “unwinding,” or organ harvesting. While the plot moves quickly, the work definitely reads like a sequel—a good one. Shusterman is obviously setting the scene for a big climax in Book 3, and his only fault is excess. There are so many new characters and plot twists and segues that readers may feel overwhelmed or confused, but that won’t stop them from turning the pages.

A breathless, unsettling read . (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2366-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.

LEGENDBORN

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4160-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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