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THE DARK LIGHT

Promising, but loses its grip.

An imaginative fantasy begins with real potential but suffers from a heroine who’s a bit too flawed.

This adventure/romance provides thrills and intrigue, starting off solidly with Mia attracted to Sol, the mysterious, hunky new student with a fabulous eagle tattoo that covers his entire back. Mia realizes that the strange lights she’s seen around her rural town are connected to the disappearances of boys from the area. When her brother also disappears, Mia runs to save him but loses the necklace her mother had left her. Surreptitiously investigating Sol, she discovers that he has it. Caught, she runs from him until both are swept up into the Other Side, a video-game fantasy-style world existing in the empty spaces of our own. Mia drops her necklace yet again, only to learn that it can open the barrier between the two worlds and that the evil Suzerain, if he gets it, will use it to destroy our side. The story works well until the supposedly intelligent Mia begins causing much, if not most, of the story’s suspense by immediately doing what she has been warned not to do—which ultimately ends up driving the narrative. Those who can overlook Mia’s irritating conduct will enjoy her dangerous adventures and standard-issue budding romance with the increasingly magical Sol as they try to retrieve the necklace, rescue Mia’s brother, fight demons and learn more about Mia’s past. More focus on the intriguing fantasy world and less on Mia’s failings would help.

Promising, but loses its grip. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3455-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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