A dark and twisty psychological thriller that straddles the question of what it means to be human.


A girl struggles to remember her involvement in her stepsister’s death, aided by an artificially intelligent therapeutic companion.

White teen Cora Dietrich can’t remember much of what happened the night her stepsister, Hannah, (also white) fell down the stairs to her death. They’d both been drinking, but Cora was far more intoxicated. An advanced camera nodule on her temple called a Cerapin could have captured everything, and the girls’ home AI, Franka, could have called for help, but both were turned off before the fall. As the new girl in town, Cora’s painted as suspicious by Hannah’s friends, and she’s certain that Gary, Hannah’s father, believes she murdered his daughter. Cora won’t help with the investigation, so Gary enlists the aid of a state-of-the-art therapeutic companion AI named Rafiq. Cora is quickly bowled over by handsome, olive-skinned Rafiq since he offers respite from her ever surveilling parents. Rafiq helps Cora uncover the truth of that night, all the while unraveling the secrets of the sisters’ fraught relationship as he reviews Hannah’s archive of Cerapin videos. Told through Cora’s and Rafiq’s perspectives, the story offers an intimate exploration of Cora’s claustrophobic world and Rafiq’s burgeoning autonomy. Readers will be hooked by the mystery and compelled by Cora’s and Rafiq’s distinctly surprising trajectories. Rafiq’s coloring and Muslim name go unexplored in the text.

A dark and twisty psychological thriller that straddles the question of what it means to be human. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4646-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Skyscape

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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