An ambitious sci-fi mystery that falls just short of great.

VICARIOUS

From the Vicarious series , Vol. 1

A Korean-American girl’s sister is mysteriously murdered.

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have come a long way from the Korean orphanage. The siblings were brought to the United States illegally and sold into prostitution at a young age. Gideon Seung, a fellow Korean and Rose’s ex-boyfriend, saved and moved them across the country to Saint Louis. Here Gideon runs a successful tech company called Escape, which produces Vicarious Sensory Experiences. The sisters work as digital stunt artists for Gideon, doing everything from bungee jumping to committing robberies. When Rose disappears and a ViSE of her murder is delivered to Gideon’s office, Winter is devastated and swears to unveil her sister’s killer. The ensuing mystery is built upon some smart twists and turns and supported by some smart sci-fi worldbuilding. Complementing the mystery is a slow-burn love story between Winter and Mexican-American Jesse Ramirez, a fellow stunt artist. Their relationship is tender and complicated, with enough tension to sustain itself and enough heat to pop when things pay off. Less satisfying is the author’s decision to turn Winter into an unreliable narrator, an idea that’s planted early but doesn’t mesh well with the rest of what’s going on. By novel’s end readers will be satisfied with the mystery’s conclusion, but the gymnastics it takes to get there are apparent.

An ambitious sci-fi mystery that falls just short of great. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8094-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.

FIREBORNE

From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Several yards short of a touchdown.

STAY GOLD

A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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