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FOLLOW ME

From the Amateurs series , Vol. 2

The teenage detectives from The Amateurs (2016) return, sent on a chase by their adversary.

It’s three months after Seneca, Aerin, Maddox, and Madison discovered who killed Seneca’s mother and Aerin’s sister, but the escape of the killer—their former friend, Brett—is haunting them. Then Chelsea Dawson, an Instagram-obsessed white girl, disappears. The next day, the disappearance is inexplicably posted on Case Not Closed, a cold-case message board, with a post from Brett that draws the Amateurs’ suspicions. While biracial Seneca takes the lead in the investigation, torn between catching Brett and dealing with her confusing feelings for white boy Maddox, white girl Aerin is weepy and distracted by thoughts of her sister. Korean-American Madison barely registers in solving the case or with readers, and Maddox seems mostly concerned about how white boy Jeff, Chelsea’s ex and a suspect in her disappearance, is apparently putting the moves on Seneca. Throughout the novel, Brett is spinning his web to teach Chelsea a lesson and make the Amateurs realize they’re outclassed. While there’s enough back story to explain their first case, the immature and two-dimensional foursome are amateurs in both name and ability. Unlike the first, this so-called mystery is utterly lacking in suspense or tension, overflows with leaps of logic, and offers nothing to indicate the teen detectives are any match for Brett—a fatal flaw.

Skip. (Mystery. 14-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4228-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

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)

HIT

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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