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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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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