Inspiring and heartwarming.

MOST LIKELY

From the Most Likely series , Vol. 1

The future is female: Her name is President Diffenderfer.

Best friends since kindergarten, Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha tackle their senior year with great aplomb in Watson’s debut. When their senior rite of passage, carving one’s name into the jungle gym at a local park, is threatened by a city council that wants to demolish the park, the girls rally to save the place where they became friends. This is far from their only problem: Though each is talented, they struggle this year with emotional, academic, social, and financial issues. Latinx artist Ava, who lives with depression, desires to find her birth mother and attend art school against her mother’s wishes; white cross-country athlete CJ, who is self-conscious about her body, can’t crack the SATs, so she strengthens her college application by volunteering with disabled children; biracial (black/white) student journalist Jordan lies about her age to interview a handsome councilman’s aide, and a mutual crush develops; STEM-focused white lesbian Martha, named for her ancestor Martha Washington, worries that her family can’t afford MIT. Over the course of the year, the friends weather obstacles and realize the power of their friendship. Their relationship prepares one of the girls to become president of the United States, and the twist ending will come as a surprise. The characters are superbly drawn; portrayed as whole people, the various elements of their identities are not the entirety of who they are.

Inspiring and heartwarming. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45483-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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