A necessary reckoning of tensions within the African diaspora—an introduction to its brokenness and a place to start healing.

DREAM COUNTRY

Gibney (See No Color, 2015) skillfully navigates centuries of colonial violence, emphasizing the importance of privileging impact over intention in historical texts.

A comprehensive, but not entirely cohesive, timeline introduces a family beginning in 1827 at a plantation in Virginia. The story moves through the brutal colonization of Liberia, detailed further in the backmatter, by Europeans alongside white Americans and freed or escaped black slaves and ends with the prescient voice of Angel, a “black-African-queer” woman in present-day Minnesota. Gibney creates clear voices for her characters, most strikingly with 16-year-old Kollie, a Liberian refugee whose experience at his high school explores a microcosm of real discord between African-Americans and immigrants or refugees from myriad African countries living in the U.S. The naming of specific tribes in what became Liberia, and the inclusion of traditional proverbs alongside quotations from African-American writers, further spotlights the complicated, ever intertwined existences of black people all over the world. A nuanced focus on Liberia through the perspective of this one family, five generations described in five parts, therefore becomes a moving and melancholic metaphor for the struggle for place and home experienced by those still trapped by the legacy of the triangle of trans-Atlantic trade.

A necessary reckoning of tensions within the African diaspora—an introduction to its brokenness and a place to start healing. (author’s note, further resources, timeline) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3167-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A creative and compelling read.

A NEON DARKNESS

From the Bright Sessions series , Vol. 2

Robert can manipulate others—but he doesn’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse.

Following The Infinite Noise (2019), this Bright Sessions book tells the origin story of Damien, ne Robert, one of the podcast’s antagonists. When the book opens, Robert is an 18-year-old high school dropout and White boy with no family but all the material resources he could ever need. He has the power to make people do what he wants, or more accurately, to want the same things he wants. After arriving in Los Angeles, he falls in with a slightly older group of Unusuals with various powers who take him under their wing. Shippen combines an exciting plot with diverse characters—such as Neon, who is Black and queer, and Indah, who is Indonesian, Muslim, and lesbian—who defy stereotypes. As the group tangles with a shady organization that has kidnapped their friend, they also realize that the affection they feel for Robert might not be real. Robert’s emotional arc is interesting and unusual—he wants to be a good person, but he is selfish, manipulative, and unwilling to change. He is sympathetic while also being pitiful and contemptible and far too uncool to be an antihero. This may be the best Bright Sessions content yet as well as an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with this world.

A creative and compelling read. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-29754-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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