In this YA novel, a high school boy’s life changes after an ominous prediction and his meeting a mysterious new girl.
Jaden Miller isn’t looking forward to starting his sophomore year. He misses New York City, where he lives during the summer with his dad. He hates Duncan, “the lamest town anywhere,” in the swampy mud of Gulf Coast Louisiana. It’s little consolation that he happens to be a cool, popular kid: a varsity lacrosse player, tall and built, with the hottest girls in school vying for his attention. His first day of school, however, offers surprises. Madam Marian, silent proprietor of the Stop-N-Shop, actually speaks to him: “Someone dear to you, boy, will die within the year.” And at assembly, he sees a beautiful dark-haired girl with scratched, bloody hands whom no one knows. Jaden becomes increasingly obsessed with tracking her down; he can’t discover her name, but he finds little tokens: a “dandelion…clinging by a piece of tape to the bottom of her desktop, and…another, on the floor, close to my feet.” Are his mysterious encounters with a red fox and mourning dove somehow related? Why are flowers going missing? Jaden’s cool status is threatened as he pursues his obsession to a final, dramatic confrontation at the bayou’s supposedly hauntedDuncan Shipyard. In her remarkably accomplished debut novel, Gragg, a high schooler, skillfully combines a truly spooky ghost story with a coming-of-age tale. Jaden defies expectations of the cool kid/jock, showing sensitivity and empathy: “Sometimes—well, most of the time—losers are actually decent guys, more decent than the dudes on the lacrosse team.” Observing a dandelion clock, he muses: “All plants have a pattern, a beautiful pattern, if you just look.” Gragg effectively builds mystery and suspense, while keeping things moving at a decent pace and making excellent use of her setting. A framing story—Jaden as a middle-aged man recalling the whole story—seems out of place, and some elements, such as the girl’s continuedinvisibility in such a small school, challenge credulity. Still, with a writer this young, readers have a lot to look forward to.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.