A compelling speculative premise helmed by a realistic female protagonist.

THE LAST LIE

From the List series , Vol. 2

Wordsmith Letta fights for the future right of people to employ language to tell their own truth.

Forde continues the post-apocalyptic adventure begun in The List (2017) with a look at the way that struggles for what is right and who wields power collide in a new world order. Now, long after the world-changing global warming event remembered as the Melting, young Letta, wordsmith of the survivors in her part of the world, is caught up in the resistance against the established order of the surviving organized city, Ark. Amelia, the current leader of Ark, regards language as something to be controlled and used only by those in power. To that end, she has removed dozens of babies from their families and created a nursery where they will be raised without language. This dark experiment with raising feral children seems to offer homage to The Giver, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Omelas, and other worlds where safety and security are guaranteed at the price of something intrinsically human. As intriguingly ambitious as Forde’s idea is, it suffers somewhat in the extensive telling of Lette’s story of danger and flight, where often the peril results from Lette’s impulsive, believable adolescent impetuousness. Fortunately she is several times saved by Marlo, the friend she hopes will return her affection. A default white is presumed; markers of color, class, and language aren’t given.

A compelling speculative premise helmed by a realistic female protagonist. (Science fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9333-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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TIME VILLAINS

From the Time Villains series , Vol. 1

Historical guests come to dinner and chaos ensues in this uproarious debut.

Twelve-year-old Javier Santiago’s not doing so well at Finistere, his slightly cool, slightly weird semi-castle of a school in suburban Maryland. He’s at risk of failing sixth grade and falling behind his brainiac, history-obsessed best friend, Wiki. Then comes the annual all-school project: invite three guests, living or dead, to dinner, then write an essay. For a budding chef like Javi, that’s a piece of cake. Trouble arises when Javi uses his family’s magical antique dining room table to accidentally pull his guests into the present day, including the infamous Blackbeard, who escapes before he can be sent back in time. Blackbeard wants to use the table to summon his fearsome crew and enact his plans to take over the modern world. Worse yet, the dreadful pirate is hilariously popping up all over Finistere, working as the school groundskeeper to ensure the success of his sinister plans. With the help of Brady, Javi’s tough-as-nails younger sister, the boys work to take down Blackbeard while uncovering the school’s mysterious secrets. Featuring a diverse cast led by the Puerto Rican siblings and Haitian American Wiki, grand doses of humor, and an irreverent take on some of history’s well-known figures, Piñeiro's book scores with this tale of friendship, magic, and adventure. A breakneck pace and Javi’s colorful narration hold things together as the thrilling zaniness piles up.

Magnificent. (list of characters) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-049-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A thrilling conclusion to a beautifully crafted, heart-stopping trilogy.

THRIVE

From the Overthrow series , Vol. 3

This is the moment teens Seth, Anaya, and Petra have both been anticipating and dreading ever since aliens called cryptogens began attempting to colonize the Earth: the chance to defend their planet.

In an earlier volume, Seth, Anaya, and Petra began growing physical characteristics that made them realize they were half alien. Seth has wings, Petra has a tail, and Anaya has fur. They also have the power of telepathy, which Anaya uses to converse with Terra, a cryptogen rebel looking for human allies who could help stop the invasion of Earth. Terra plans to use a virus stored in the three teens’ bodies to disarm the flyers, which are the winged aliens that are both masterminding the invasion and enslaving the other species of cryptogens known as swimmers and runners. But Terra and her allies can’t pull any of this off without the help of Anaya, Seth, and Petra. Although the trio is anxious about their abilities, they don’t have much of a choice—the entire human race is depending on them for salvation. Like its predecessors, this trilogy closer is fast-paced and well structured. Despite its post-apocalyptic setting, the story is fundamentally character driven, and it is incredibly satisfying to watch each protagonist overcome their inner battles within the context of the larger human-alien war. Main characters read as White.

A thrilling conclusion to a beautifully crafted, heart-stopping trilogy. (Science fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984894-80-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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