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THE LOTUS FLOWER CHAMPION

A wholesome and realistic coming-of-age novel—with magical flourishes.

A Washington, D.C., teen and her mother are stranded on a deserted island along with a group of strangers and a mysterious, possibly magical, force.

Seventeen-year-old Alaia’s mother is dying of cancer. Mama decides to return home to Thailand with her husband and daughter to enjoy life while she still can. Determined to make her mom happy, Alaia agrees to go on a yacht trip—although she’s anxious about the deep water—and even spends time with cute boatswain Bodin, who also has a Thai mom and a white dad. When the cruise suddenly goes wrong, a multinational group of 12 passengers of one lifeboat, including Alaia, Mama, and Bodin, wash up on a tropical island. (Alaia last saw Papa, an obstetrician, on deck helping a pregnant woman who went into labor.) With no food and Mama’s medicine running out, their chances of survival look grim, until members of the group begin to display strange abilities. Could Thai folktales really be coming to life? Neither purely a survival story nor a fairy tale, the narrative, in which personal struggles and growth take center stage, combines the complexities of navigating loss and growing up. Alaia’s OCD is an integral facet of the plot throughout, and her character arc is ultimately positive, focusing on mental health and forming and maintaining strong relationships.

A wholesome and realistic coming-of-age novel—with magical flourishes. (authors’ note, sources) (Fantasy. 12-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374332

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2014

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THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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