Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world.

SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING

Sia’s mother was deported three years ago by the town sheriff; she disappeared after trying to make her way back across the Sonoran Desert to her family.

Grieving Sia is plagued daily by the sheriff’s hateful son, but the Mexican American teen is bolstered by her Haitian American, questioning best friend, Rose; her loving park ranger father, who has a Ph.D. in biology; and the spirit of her late grandmother, who continues to communicate with and guide her. She falls for a mysterious, poetry-loving White boy, and, together, they spot a spacecraft bearing Sia’s mother. What follows is an electrifying, high-stakes adventure filled with shady government agencies and conspiracy theories come to life. Vasquez Gilliland adeptly balances first love, Mexican American cosmology and Catholicism, X-Files–level intrigue, and undocumented immigration. She doesn’t shy away from frank explorations of trauma; interrogation of Whiteness; and sex-positive, swoon-inducing makeout sessions that center a young woman’s perspective. The poetic prose elevates the story into a magical triumph. Sia is a vulnerable, sympathetic protagonist who, despite a past traumatic sexual experience, the deportation of her mother, and the constant barrage of egregious micro- and macroaggressions, finds hope in her relationships, culture, and connection to her ancestors. Spirituality is woven into everything Sia does and will resonate with many readers. The whip-smart humor lends the novel a breeziness that keeps the narrative lighthearted in between the truly hair-raising moments.

Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world. (Science fiction/contemporary. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4863-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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