A change of pace that largely succeeds, showing that Hale’s range is wider than her readers might have expected.

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DANGEROUS

Fairy-tale–telling Hale tackles straight-up science fiction in a tale seemingly tailor-made to forestall complaints about lovelorn teen heroines and all-white casts of characters.

Maisie Danger Brown (really), smart, home-schooled, one-handed half-Paraguayan daughter of scientists, has always dreamed of being an astronaut. When she sees an ad for a space camp competition from Bonnie Howell, the woman who built the world’s first (and only) space elevator, she can’t resist. And she wins! Space camp is electrifying, especially charming Wilder—Maisie knows it’s just hormones and an immature brain, but it feels good. Then Howell takes the strongest team (Maisie’s) plus Wilder on a ride into space, and the five teens end up infected by nanotechnology tokens of extraterrestrial origins. Whew! Cue a dark, superherolike tale: Friends die, adventures are had, kisses are exchanged, the Earth is saved. The tale is choppy at times and weak on worldbuilding, with surprisingly thin characterization—but girl power abounds, and the pages keep turning. The romance that Maisie resists and recognizes as mostly just a hormonal rush is endearing and happily doesn’t quite overshadow saving the world or her family, although it sometimes comes close.

A change of pace that largely succeeds, showing that Hale’s range is wider than her readers might have expected. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59990-168-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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