For readers seeking a diverse, witchy mystery.

B*WITCH

From the B*Witch series , Vol. 1

Teen witches are tasked with finding those who are threatened by their existence.

Sorrow Point, Washington, seems like a typical American small town except for the two secret covens of sophomore witches who have been feuding since junior high. When newcomer Iris—who is just doing her best to manage her anxiety and sensory processing disorder—arrives, Greta (the levelheaded leader), Binx (the technomancer rebel), and Ridley (the studious and artistic one) make plans to recruit her before the rival coven does. Since the new president started stirring up venomous hatred toward witches, there have been more Antima (Anti-Magic) members lurking around. Suddenly, the girls start receiving threatening shadow messages. Their entire existence is illegal and could spell trouble if anyone ever found out who they truly were. As they attempt to track the notes’ sender, tragedy strikes, and now the covens will have to band together to find out who murdered a fellow witch. The author crafts an honest, promising story narrated through a third-person omnipotent voice and featuring an inclusive, distinct cast of young women who detail their unique struggles. The story fizzles at the very end with the setup for another installment, however readers will relish the character-building as they get to know these young witches. Greta is cued as Latinx, Iris is white, Binx is Japanese American, and Ridley is black and trans.

For readers seeking a diverse, witchy mystery. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02876-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Freeform/Disney/LBYR

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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