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THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN

Interesting questions about mental health and self-awareness are sacrificed in favor of a too-tidy happily-ever-after ending...

Natalie hopes a summer Shakespeare program will offer stability, but instead, her belief in rumors of a theater ghost suggests her schizophrenic delusions may be worsening.

A recent delusional episode resulted in the white teen’s diagnosis of schizophrenia, from which her grandmother also suffers. Initially, Natalie is determined to use medication and other treatment techniques to avoid future schizophrenic episodes. But she also longs to be a carefree teen, prompting her concealment of her diagnosis from her new (apparently mostly white) theater friends—resulting in alcohol consumption and missed medication doses. Consequently, Natalie’s increasingly fearful reactions to rumors of a theater ghost seem plausibly related to her mental health diagnosis. Readers will struggle with Natalie as she evaluates her own mental stability, especially as her grandmother’s intensifying delusions add terror to the schizophrenia diagnosis. Unfortunately, a less interesting storyline involving a dull romance with Lucas, the handsome white boy Natalie recognizes from the mental health treatment facility, soon takes center stage. Her declarations of falling in love seem unfounded and premature. A potentially interesting reveal gets lost in several other characters’ abruptly shifting attitudes and behaviors—especially the grandmother’s sudden delivery of sage advice about the power of love. That this Savannah, Georgia–set tale seems to have no significant African-American characters is a real shame.

Interesting questions about mental health and self-awareness are sacrificed in favor of a too-tidy happily-ever-after ending and poorly realized setting . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4967-0356-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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