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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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