Memorable, if sometimes ham-fisted.

THE PARKOUR CLUB

Two teens fall for one another amid an extreme sport and an extremist plot in Withers and Hayat’s YA novel.

Sixteen-year-old Bronte Miller has returned to her hometown of Richland, Washington, after a year in Egypt. She misses her life in Alexandria, including her romance with Sarfraz, a boy from the Parkour Academy whom she kept secret from her parents. Richland is boring in comparison, at least until Yemeni refugee Karam Saif comes to town. Karam is an outsider in every way, but he and Bronte share two things in common: Bronte’s father is a journalist currently covering the war in Yemen, and they have a mutual love of the sport of parkour. Parkour—an activity that involves running, jumping, and climbing over obstacles—is popular at Bronte’s high school. There’s even a parkour club, run by the new computer teacher from France, Julian Legendre. Bronte soon develops feelings for Karam. It isn’t long, though, before suspicions between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Richland boil into an extremist recruitment controversy involving both teens—along with Bronte’s father and the parkour club itself! Withers and Hayat write in apt, punchy prose: “One by one, starting on the floor, we throw ourselves against the poles, sometimes bashing our poor bodies against them, mostly sliding right off like the metal is greased. But gradually, a few of us start getting it—sticking one out of five times, one out of four times.” The premise of the novel is somewhat hard to believe: Nearly every character, no matter where they are from, happens to love parkour? Really? Once the reader gets past that, the book reveals itself to be about American fears and misunderstandings of Islam and the Arab world…even if those fears and misunderstandings crop up in ways that are very on-the-nose. Bronte is perhaps a bit too angst-y, Karam a bit too idealized, and Legendre a bit too unbelievable, but fans of big, unsubtle YA sports novels will likely enjoy this intriguing blend of parkour, cross-cultural understanding, and teen romance.

Memorable, if sometimes ham-fisted.

Pub Date: April 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9959103-2-4

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 18, 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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