A fun, quick read that adds little to the genre.

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BOBBY ETHER AND THE JADE ACADEMY

Tragedy propels Bobby Ether into a tangled web of conspiracy and lies.

After a violent earthquake wakes 16-year-old Bobby up in the middle of the night, he learns that the nightmare he’d been having was true: His parents really were in a violent car crash. What happens next is straight out of a suspense movie: Bobby is kidnapped and whisked away to the Jade Academy, situated in an occupied monastery in Tibet. Far from his Los Angeles home, Bobby learns that he is an exso, an awakened person who has amazing abilities. He can tap into anima—a life energy similar to the Chinese concept of qi—that connects him with all creatures on the planet. According to Headmistress Grayson, Bobby has been brought there to cultivate his special abilities. He is assigned to work with a monk, but his lack of progress frustrates Bobby. Fortunately, a motley crew of peers support and help him on his journey. With their assistance, Bobby decodes a puzzle and discovers that the academy is not all that it seems. A likable protagonist, engaging banter, and a fast-paced plot will appeal to teens. Unfortunately the worldbuilding is thin in places and the development of secondary characters is weak, sometimes veering into stereotype. In addition to the Chinese and Tibetan characters, Bobby and several others are white, and one student is brown-skinned.

A fun, quick read that adds little to the genre. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63393-747-5

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

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A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful.

A LIFE, REDEFINED

From the Rowan Slone series , Vol. 1

Rowan Slone’s future looks promising, offering a much-needed escape from her small town in Appalachia.

But with new secrets revealed about her family and past, she must move forward or risk being pulled back into the very darkness she is trying to escape. A junior in high school, Rowan is on track to graduate and go to college, and she dreams of eventually becoming a veterinarian. The death of her baby brother 7 years ago sent her into a spiral of self-harm, but she managed to stop cutting herself a few years ago. Things start to look up when she is paired with her longtime crush, Mike Anderson, for their biology project. There are hints of a budding romance between the two, and Mike even asks her to prom. However, life at home takes a turn for the worse, and Rowan finds herself reaching for a razor. With everything she has suffered, readers will find themselves cheering for Rowan, hoping she makes it through. Meyer (The Reformation of Marli Meade, 2018, etc.) astutely captures the horrors of self-harm and domestic violence. However, the story would have benefited from more character development of the protagonist’s family and other secondary characters. All main characters are assumed to be white; Rowan’s father’s racism is explored to some degree.

A searing portrayal of a teen navigating her dysfunctional family that leaves readers hopeful. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64397-012-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: BHC Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Girls Can't Be Knights

From the Spirit Knights series , Vol. 1

The start of a new YA series features a teen orphan and a protective brotherhood of Spirit Knights.

Fifteen-year-old Claire Terdan lives in a group foster home in Portland, Oregon. Six years ago, her family died in a house fire, and her only dependable friend since has been a boy her age named Drew. One day in school, after she punches a bully who mocks her, the principal suspends her for a day. She sneaks out of school and into town only to be accosted by several cats and dogs. Meanwhile, at the nearby Oregon Historical Society, a man named Justin arrives on his white horse, Tariel. He’s there, dressed in his green Spirit Knight armor, to borrow (some might say steal) an antique hat that has sentimental meaning to his mentor, Kurt. When he meets Claire, he offers her a ride home. Telling Justin she doesn’t have one, Claire ends up with him in Vancouver, Washington, at his family’s farm. There she meets his wife and two young daughters and eventually learns about the Palace, a magical, dormitory-style structure where Spirit Knights—a brotherhood that protects the world from ghostly, vengeful Phasms—dwell. Justin isn’t sure why Claire seems familiar until he learns that she’s the daughter of a dead Knight named Mark. French (Superheroes in Denim, 2016, etc.) establishes a crafty new fantasy series with a light smattering of genre fixtures, including talking animals, an enchanted pendant, and the firmly held belief that “Girls can’t be Knights.” Most of the narrative drama comes from grounded conflicts that teens should relate to, like Claire’s attraction to the older Justin and the lousy conditions of the “sanitized prison” that is her group home. Later scenes in which a detective named Avery physically assaults Claire are not for the faint-hearted. The upside for the tale’s heroine is that Justin and his family turn out to be perfect for her; despite early misgivings about them, she decides to “admire the example they set and be grateful for it.” The story should provide a heartwarming boost to anyone in a tough situation.

A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Pub Date: June 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68063-030-5

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Myrddin Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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