A good idea undercut by the author’s choices. (Science fiction/dystopian. 16-adult)

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THE UNDERCURRENT

In near-future Australia, a girl with unusual powers is caught up in a battle for the soul of her country.

Two years ago, Julianne “Jules” De Marchi blew up a wing of her school—a wing paid for by the Paxton Federation, an agricultural company engaged in questionable practices that dominates Australia. Now 18, Jules and her mother, Angie, scrape by, Angie’s journalism career and activism derailed by a blackmailer who knows what really happened at school that day: Jules can generate electricity, and the explosion was an accident that occurred when she couldn’t control the current. After a lot of narrative delay, the truth comes out: Her abilities are the result of Pax Fed experimentation—and Pax Fed is torn between studying her and killing her. It will take the help of Ryan, a member of a secret Australian army unit who conveniently falls for Jules, and the rest of his unit to protect Jules and reveal the truth about Pax Fed. The Australian setting is well-realized. While there are nods to diversity in the supporting characters, all the protagonists appear to be white. Chapters told from the point of view of adult characters dilute the impact of Jules’ story, especially as none of the characters are particularly vivid or compelling.

A good idea undercut by the author’s choices. (Science fiction/dystopian. 16-adult)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-925498-23-3

Page Count: 401

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Few chills and even less logic.

BENT HEAVENS

Can Liv put the pieces of her life back together after her father’s mental breakdown?

In rural Bloughton, Iowa, Liv takes solace in the cross country team and the idea that she will be off to college before too long. Three years ago, her father, the high school’s former English and drama teacher, vanished only to return naked and talking about alien abduction. He disappeared for good eight months later. Liv and her friend Doug check the elaborate traps her father built in the woods during those eight months every Sunday. The teacher who replaced him decides to stage the same musical that was her father’s swan song, and after getting in trouble for an outburst over her insensitivity, Liv decides to destroy the traps…but discovers that one has caught an alien. After hiding the horrifying creature in her father’s shed, they discover it has her father’s compass. In anger, Liv attacks the beast and then she and Doug torture it repeatedly as revenge for her missing father…but the alien is not what they perceive him to be, and as the truth is revealed, the horror mounts. Kraus’ (Blood Sugar, 2019, etc.) newest horror fantasy (there is no science here) might inspire more anger than horror as the protagonists respond to otherness with violence. Outrage will likely be followed by laughter at the stagy, manipulative, over-the-top conclusion. Most characters seem to be white.

Few chills and even less logic. (Horror. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15167-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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