Alas, not tight enough to resonate deeply.

RACHEL'S HOPE

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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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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