An unusual focus on food only improves this intriguing coming-of-age story.

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STAR-CROSSED

As unrest grows in a food-strapped space colony, a young woman slated for leadership must make a heart-wrenching decision in this YA sci-fi/romance novel.

When colonists arrived on their new planet, Dion, 60 years ago, they expected to find a fully habitable environment. All but a few terraforming pods sent ahead were destroyed, however, making survival tenuous. The colony adopted a drastic solution: the Aegis (people with suitable genes) receive a modification to become food incubators, eating heartily six times a day so that many more nutrients than they eat can be uncomfortably extracted from them in pill form. The other colonists consume only these pills, never tasting actual food. They, however, live full life spans, while all the Aegis but the king lose 60 years each. To retain strong leadership, every five years, a strong, fit colonist is chosen to sacrifice his or her organs to keep the king alive. Princess Vela, 17, of Thai descent, doesn’t always follow rules but still might be chosen over her sister as their father’s successor. First, though, she’s charged with administering this year’s Fittest Trials—agonizing in any circumstances but even harder with Vela’s childhood crush competing. Not only that, a saboteur threatens the colony. Vela must use her head and heart to make the right choices on behalf of her people. Dunn (Seize Today, 2017, etc.) has an inspired idea in focusing Dion’s society around issues of food and eating, so primal yet seldom featured in sci-fi. The Aegis’ lavish, varied meals sound so absolutely mouthwatering that readers may wish for a cookbook tie-in: “hummus and falafel and anchovy salad with olives and onions. Squid ink paella and cod fish omelet….Ceviche and fried plantains.” The power of this fundamental social divide is captivating, and it’s easy to see how it could lead to unrest, with have-nots growing, cooking, and serving meals they can’t even taste. Vela’s emotions are rendered in the melodramatic bodily overreactions common to YA fiction, and it’s easy to guess the villain, but Dunn’s entertaining storytelling compensates.

An unusual focus on food only improves this intriguing coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63375-241-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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