Both earnest and nuanced without seeking causes or cures



A 16-year-old English girl with too much anxiety to speak in public makes a new friend.

Steffi no longer identifies as selectively mute, though she still finds it nearly impossible to speak in public. She’s currently diagnosed with a range of anxiety and communication disorders: healthier but still fragile. And Tem, her sole childhood friend, has switched schools, leaving her alone. Nevertheless, Steffi’s been doing cognitive behavioral therapy and has started medication; she’s determined to make this the year when she speaks in school. A teacher introduces Steffi to a new boy at school, Rhys, because he’s deaf, and Steffi knows a little British Sign Language. A very little—Steffi’s BSL and Rhys’ lip reading are adequate, but as their friendship grows, they switch fluidly among sign, fingerspelling, writing, and texts. Her deepening relationship with Rhys is exciting, but is he with her only because she speaks BSL? Steffi’s improving mental health might enable her to go to university despite parental ambivalence, but her expanding social life alienates her from Tem. There’s broad representation in this romantic coming-of-age novel: of perception of disability (Steffi wants to be “normal,” Rhys wouldn’t choose to hear); of family support (Steffi’s infantalizing mum, Rhys’ BSL–fluent family); of a racially diverse community (Steffi’s white, Tem’s black, Rhys is biracial black/white, and their community is realistically diverse).

Both earnest and nuanced without seeking causes or cures . (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0241-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.


From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)


A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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