Benson thinks he’s found the perfect school in Maxfield Academy, a private school in the wilds of New Mexico. Winning a...

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VARIANT

Wells introduces Benson Fisher, a teen in search of a “real” life instead of a long series of unwanted foster homes—but instead of the utopia he’s searching for, he finds the direct opposite.

Benson thinks he’s found the perfect school in Maxfield Academy, a private school in the wilds of New Mexico. Winning a scholarship with unexpected ease, he looks forward to establishing real friendships and getting a good education at last. What he finds, however, is far from normal. Within minutes of the front doors closing—and locking—behind him, he finds himself in a fight for his life. He joins a gang, the Variants, just to survive. With no adults on campus, classes are taught by fellow students, punishments are passed on by computer and nothing seems to follow a logical path. Benson decides it’s time to make a run for it, until he finds out that no one makes it out of Maxfield…not alive, at any rate. Benson's account unfolds in a speedy, unadorned first person, doling information out to readers as he learns it himself.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202608-9

Page Count: 356

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.

FUTUREDAZE

AN ANTHOLOGY OF YA SCIENCE FICTION

A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.

The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.

A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity. (author bios) (Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9847824-0-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Underwords

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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DEATH BENEFITS

In this character-driven intergenerational story, Royce Peterson and his single mother have recently moved from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to help care for Arthur, Royce’s 95-year-old grandfather and one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century. After the curmudgeon chases off every aide, the teen is enlisted to watch his grandfather. At first the homesick, friendless and mono-recovering teen and his homebound, rude and crude grandfather are at odds, but then Royce gains new appreciation for Arthur—he caroused with Gloria Vanderbilt and Picasso, traveled the world, loved and lost loves—and Arthur begins to appreciate life again. But just as the pair begins to respect each other, Arthur suffers a series of debilitating strokes and asks Royce to end his life. Inspired by her experience caring for her aged father, Harvey offers a realistic view of the aging process, the difficult decisions left to loved ones and the need for friends and family. Sophisticated readers and fans of Joan Bauer’s Rules of the Road (1998) or Louis Sachar's The Cardturner (2010) will enjoy the grandfather-grandson banter and tenderness. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55146-226-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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