A cinematic, page-ripping debut.

A WICKED MAGIC

California teens get caught up in a witchy misadventure.

Though Daniela and Liss, who live in a small coastal town in Northern California, share a close friendship, each wrestles with private demons. Dark-haired Dan copes with depression through self-harm, feeling each time she cuts herself that it might bring her some peace. And blonde-haired Liss struggles with poor self-esteem thanks, in part, to an abusive, overdemanding mother with a drinking problem. Together the best friends hope their discovery of the mysterious Black Book in the giveaway box outside a grocery store will fill their inner voids, offering them an irresistible spell for becoming witches and other magical charms, each promising to be one that will change their lives for the better. Unfortunately for these would-be witches, the spell that really changes things results in the abduction of Liss’ boyfriend by an evil spirit and a terrible breach in the girls’ friendship. It is only when the two begin to open up to each other and trust mutual friend Alexa, who has hidden magical powers, that they summon the moxie to try to undo the damage they wrought. In her debut, Laurens weaves an intricate, suspense-filled tale mingling everyday teen angst with otherworldly sorcery. Alternating among the perspectives of the three lead characters, the shifting narrative tantalizes teen readers with the possibility of magic. Dan is Mexican American; Liss and Alexa are cued as white.

A cinematic, page-ripping debut. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11725-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come.

THE WICKED KING

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 2

A heady blend of courtly double-crossing, Faerie lore, and toxic attraction swirls together in the sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018).

Five months after engineering a coup, human teen Jude is starting to feel the strain of secretly controlling King Cardan and running his Faerie kingdom. Jude’s self-loathing and anger at the traumatic events of her childhood (her Faerie “dad” killed her parents, and Faerie is not a particularly easy place even for the best-adjusted human) drive her ambition, which is tempered by her desire to make the world she loves and hates a little fairer. Much of the story revolves around plotting (the Queen of the Undersea wants the throne; Jude’s Faerie father wants power; Jude’s twin, Taryn, wants her Faerie betrothed by her side), but the underlying tension—sexual and political—between Jude and Cardan also takes some unexpected twists. Black’s writing is both contemporary and classic; her world is, at this point, intensely well-realized, so that some plot twists seem almost inevitable. Faerie is a strange place where immortal, multihued, multiformed denizens can’t lie but can twist everything; Jude—who can lie—is an outlier, and her first-person, present-tense narration reveals more than she would choose. With curly dark brown hair, Jude and Taryn are never identified by race in human terms.

A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come. (map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-31035-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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

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SCYTHE

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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