Alas, not tight enough to resonate deeply.


From the Rachel Trilogy series , Vol. 3

Rachel Paskar, now 16 in 1905 San Francisco, begins life anew, a refugee with her older sister, brother-in-law, and Menahem, a young boy with whom they escaped from the 1903 Kishinev, Russia, pogrom (Rachel’s Secret, 2012). 

It is a tough life made more complicated by new customs and language. Intertwined with Rachel’s story is that of Sergei, her special friend in Russia, now escaping from a prison sentence in Siberia for fighting the czarist government. Readers explore San Francisco as Rachel and her family learn their way around and begin to make a life. After a long day’s work as a maid, Rachel studies English in a newcomer’s school and does well. She is ambitious, and perhaps as a character she is too nice, almost without faults. Readers will be confident that given time, she will succeed—but not before surviving the ’quake-fire of 1906. The stylistic advantage of having separate chapters about two protagonists, Rachel and Sergei, allows time to pass without detailing what has occurred between events. An added character based on the Jewish-American socialist Anna Strunsky encourages Rachel in her ambition to become a writer but is tangential to the story and disappears from it, one of a number of extraneous details that lessen tension and interfere with what is basically a character study.

Alas, not tight enough to resonate deeply. (historical note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927583-42-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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


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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In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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