Hope and humor buoy tales of complicated relationships and old traumas in this fast-paced manhunt.

The Keeping

A family’s search for a missing teenage girl leads the police close to home while the victim is locked in a cellar with no way out in Ransom’s debut YA novel.

High school student Sierra Hart wakes up alone in a strange room and finds a cryptic note from an unseen captor with instructions for her to take care of herself with the supplies provided—including a bed, an exercise bike, and some canned goods—until she’s released. A suspicious group of friends and family members share what they know about Sierra in alternating chapters, as if a television news program is interviewing them—a promising hook for readers. There’s Sierra’s dad, a gambling addict with a criminal record; her mom, a loving but lonely doctor; and her ex-boyfriend, Dave, who hopes to win her back from his rival, Gavin, who recently transferred to her school. FBI agents don’t have much physical evidence, so they interrogate members of Sierra’s inner and outer circles in search of a motive. Their suspects are complex and very human characters—Sierra’s jailbird father, for example, has a charming side, and even her sensible mother seems to wilt in his absence. Dave, who’s swoon-worthy but hopelessly foolish, relies on members of his powerful family at the expense of his reputation. Fun-loving Gavin, like Sierra, has family secrets that he’d like to forget. Meanwhile, Sierra herself updates her journal from her holding cell to pass the time. Her efforts to entertain herself—creating tin foil dioramas, inventing new recipes for Cheerios and pasta shells—are a bright spot in the darkness that surrounds her. As she re-examines her relationships, Sierra wavers between her desire to trust others and her need to protect herself. Author Ransom offers touching moments, such as Sierra’s account of an accidental movie date with her mother, to show Sierra’s compassion and fortitude as she recounts the series of bad breaks and awkward situations that led to her kidnapping and—she hopes—her eventual rescue. This riveting novel shows that there’s more to Sierra’s seemingly idyllic teenage life than track meets, pool parties, and gossiping on the phone with her best friend—and when all is revealed, her reaction to her kidnapper is the biggest surprise of all.

Hope and humor buoy tales of complicated relationships and old traumas in this fast-paced manhunt.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Preadtend Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A celebratory song of the sea.

THE HIGHEST TIDE

A shrimpy 13-year-old with a super-sized passion for marine life comes of age during a summer of discovery on the tidal flats of Puget Sound.

Miles O’Malley—Squid Boy to his friends—doesn’t mind being short. It’s other things that keep him awake at night, like his parents’ talk of divorce and his increasingly lustful thoughts about the girl next door. Mostly, though, it’s the ocean’s siren call that steals his sleep. During one of his moonlit kayak excursions, Miles comes across the rarest sighting ever documented in the northern Pacific: the last gasp of a Giant Squid. Scientists are stunned. The media descend. As Miles continues to stumble across other oddball findings, including two invasive species that threaten the eco-balance of Puget Sound, a nearby new-age cult’s interest in Miles prompts a headline in USA Today: Kid Messiah? Soon tourists are flocking to the tidal flats, crushing crustaceans underfoot and painting their bodies with black mud. Dodging disingenuous journalists, deluded disciples and the death-throes of his parents’ marriage, Miles tries to recapture some semblance of normality. He reads up on the G-spot and the Kama Sutra to keep pace with his pals’ bull sessions about sex (hilariously contributing “advanced” details that gross the other boys out). But Miles’s aquatic observations cannot be undone, and as summer draws to a close, inhabitants of Puget Sound prepare for a national blitzkrieg of media and scientific attention and the highest tide in 40 years, all of which threatens everything Miles holds dear. On land, the rickety plot could have used some shoring up. Miles is just too resourceful for the reader to believe his happiness—or that of those he loves—is ever at stake. But when Miles is on the water, Lynch’s first novel becomes a stunning light show, both literal, during phosphorescent plankton blooms, and metaphorical, in the poetic fireworks Lynch’s prose sets off as he describes his clearly beloved Puget Sound.

A celebratory song of the sea.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-605-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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