Whether readers ultimately find it passionate, preachy, inspiring or quixotic depends upon their own levels of cynicism;...

THE DOUBT FACTORY

The public relations business becomes an unlikely but effective villain in this techno-thriller.

High school senior Alix lives in privilege: designer labels, Caribbean vacations, elite private education. But when the mysterious activist group 2.0 targets her school, Alix learns that her father is their real objective, and soon Moses, 2.0’s seductive leader, makes her doubt everything she once believed. Despite choppy, repetitive and unabashedly didactic prose, clogged with infodumps detailing the history of corporate spin, multiaward-winning Bacigalupi cranks out a suspenseful, page-turning yarn. While any caper involving such a perfectly ethnically and sexually diverse team of teenagers, all blessed with genius-level skills, is scarcely plausible, it is nevertheless praiseworthy. Alix keeps the story grounded with her thoughtfulness and integrity. Her insta-romance with Moses—creepy origins notwithstanding—feels both authentic and intense, with a sensual physicality that pushes the book firmly into the crossover category. Even though some chapters are in his viewpoint, Moses remains a chameleon, elusive and opaque; although his philosophy of “trust no one” and “test everything” is hammered home repeatedly, readers devoid of their own superteams aren’t given many tools to follow through in real life.

Whether readers ultimately find it passionate, preachy, inspiring or quixotic depends upon their own levels of cynicism; nonetheless, it’s a book bound to provoke thought—and arguments. (Thriller. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-22075-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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ANNA K AWAY

From the Anna K series , Vol. 2

A tale of love and loss that spans the globe.

Instead of having a carefree summer, biracial (Korean/White) Anna is sent away from the familiarity of New York, her friends, the past school year’s scandal—and the memories of her dead boyfriend, Alexia Vronsky. While struggling with grief, her shattered self-image, and an uncertain future, Anna attempts to reclaim her summer in Seoul, where she knows only her father and grandmother. Beatrice, Alexia’s cousin, juggles her clingy girlfriend and falling for a California surfer even as she represses her grief. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, plans for an amazing summer party, although Lolly, his girlfriend, is away at theater camp. Steven’s best friend, Dustin, and Kimmie, Lolly’s younger sister, are equally nervous about their first sexual experience together. This sequel to Anna K (2020) contains fewer mentions of luxury brands, and the characters exhibit an increased awareness of the impacts of wealth and socio-economic status. The novel also touches on issues of addiction, sexism, cultural differences, fame, relationships, love, and mental health; in particular, the portrayals of living with grief and redefining the self after a loved one dies shine. Despite some awkward time skips, the humor, pop-culture references, and characters’ distinct voices strengthen the story. Fans of the first novel will enjoy this follow-up, which is also accessible to readers new to Anna and her world. Some major characters are White; Dustin is Black and Jewish, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.

Entertaining. (cast of characters) (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23646-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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