An enjoyable thriller with an intriguing, relatable protagonist.

CALCULATED

A high-stakes YA tale of betrayal, revenge, and numbers.

“Josephine. Octavia. Double 8. Mila. Phoenix.” Josephine Rivers had so many names in the last two years that she barely knows who she is anymore. She’s a calculating prodigy with the uncanny ability to look at the world through a purely mathematical lens. After a betrayal by her own family when she’s only 15, she’s kidnapped and taken to China by the sinister Maxima, known as “Madame,” who forces her to use her gift to increase her fortune. This marks the beginning of the protagonist’s arduous tale, which sees her moved around Shanghai’s criminal underground as others exploit her gift. Her only close company is older captive Hong Rui, nicknamed “Red,” whose wisdom and support change how she views her own power and teaches her what she needs to survive. Now she’s 17 and working for a wealthy man whose captivating son Kai starts to chip away at her emotional defenses. She has the fate of the world in her hands, thanks to her unique gifts, but she also craves vengeance against those who’ve wronged her. Can she save the world from a financial collapse and also bring her enemies down? And can she trust Kai enough to let him into her heart? This engaging take on The Count of Monte Cristo, the first in a planned series, is set primarily in Shanghai in the present day but bounces back and forth in time to show Josephine’s long journey toward freedom. Along the way, debut author McBee effectively shows how she goes from being an unwilling pawn to an empowered queen. Jo’s unique way of understanding and interacting with the world informs much of the narrative, and readers will find it compelling yet also easy to visualize. Recurring themes include the opposing forces of revenge and justice, trust and betrayal, hate and love—all of which underscore Jo’s character arc. There’s a general sense of closure in the main storyline, but open questions, and a small cliffhanger, promise more to come.

An enjoyable thriller with an intriguing, relatable protagonist.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953944-50-4

Page Count: 438

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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