Addresses persecution while reinforcing it. Skip.


Two teens with bad lives connect.

Nicu arrived in “London North” only a month ago. He and his parents came from Romania because now that Nicu is a grown man at age 15, his father must earn money to pay for an arranged bride for Nicu back in Romania (against Nicu’s wishes). Jess has always lived in North London, trapped by a stepfather who beats her mother and makes Jess record it on his phone. The two underdogs meet in a community service program for kids caught stealing and share a mild romance born of desperation. In alternating chapters, they each narrate in first-person free verse. Jess, who’s white, narrates in standard English with touches of vernacular to convey her class. Nicu, who’s Roma and brown-skinned, narrates in an unrealistic and dehumanizing broken English (“Her touching help peace my mental / and my body”). It’s meant to show that English is new to him, but the use of broken language for thoughts inside his head is sharply belittling, precludes nuanced characterization, and is also incongruent with the use of standard English for his parents’ dialogue, also presumably “translated” from Romanian for readers’ benefit. This, along with Nicu’s lack of grooming and unexplained misordering of weekdays, renders Nicu the cheapest stereotype, nullifying the authors’ attempts to confront racism in their plot about bigotry, which includes anti-Roma slurs (as well as Islamophobic and pro-Brexit ones), violence, and injustice.

Addresses persecution while reinforcing it. Skip. (Verse fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-275-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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