Sci-fi savvy teens and those glutted on dystopian futures can easily find more engaging reads.


Does humanity’s future hang in the balance, or is maintaining the balance a prison?

Nineteen-year-old Piri’s regimented civilization is perched atop a 40,000-foot column above what he believes to be the lifeless surface of the planet. When a transport-tube accident lands him on the surface, Piri finds the Children, who worship the Fathers who dwell atop the column. The Children hope to be Chosen each week to go live with the Fathers, but Piri has never seen people like the Children. While waiting to be chosen, the Children send crops up the column and enjoy a hard but happy life, except for the Scavs. The Children try to get word about Piri to the Fathers, but soon he settles in, gives the Children technological advice and falls in love with Niko. Captured by Scavs at his moment of greatest happiness, Piri is sent back to the city, where he learns the abhorrent balance on which humanity’s existence depends. He becomes determined to return to the Children to free them. Wooten’s debut is a derivative science-fantasy that uses its futuristic setting to turn a critical eye on theocracies while promoting the normalcy of same-sex unions. Logistical impossibilities and dim-when-the-plot-needs-it characters (including smart narrator Piri) hobble this tale with good intentions.

Sci-fi savvy teens and those glutted on dystopian futures can easily find more engaging reads. (Dystopian romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62639-055-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.


From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Several yards short of a touchdown.


A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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