Muddled but ambitious, with much to please fans of character-driven fantasy; here’s hoping the next two volumes proceed more...

THE CIRCLE

From the Engelsfors Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Coming into witchy powers and learning to use them responsibly is complicated by intense teen Sturm und Drang in this doorstopper import.

Heralded by bodiless demons, major evil is poised to break through to this world in the small Swedish town of Engelsfors. Seven high schoolers have been Chosen to fight this evil—which they discover after most are compelled by a never-explained force to meet in an abandoned amusement park—and later develop powers such as the ability to become invisible or to control minds. Their various paths to final, uneasy alliance are embedded in a thoroughly developed, exceptionally complex web of family issues, emotional and sexual entanglements, rivalries, hatreds, inner battles, risky personal choices and conflicting impulses that enrich the story but also make the suspenseful climactic battle with a dangerous adversary seem long in coming. Furthermore, along with killing off some of the Chosen (after they become point-of-view characters too, a knavish trick to pull on readers), the authors lazily trot in a succession of adult witches to explain matters to the survivors. They also dispel rather than intensify the atmosphere of creeping horror by turning much of the potion- and magic-making into clumsy attempts at comic relief.

Muddled but ambitious, with much to please fans of character-driven fantasy; here’s hoping the next two volumes proceed more smoothly. (Fantasy/horror. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0658-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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