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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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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