A mostly well-crafted historical whodunit.

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THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET

A debutante eschews convention to investigate the suspicious disappearance of her best friend.

With her bobbed hair and plucky attitude, Piper Sail pushes boundaries, but she isn’t quite a flapper. Living in 1920s Chicago with her brother and father—a powerful and wealthy attorney—the white teen has enjoyed a life of privilege alongside her best friend, Lydia LeVine, also white and the daughter of an affluent doctor. Lydia suffers from devastating seizures, which her father dismisses until they occur publicly. When Lydia suddenly disappears, Piper, unable to quietly sit by with her hands folded, launches her own investigation. Soon the spirited ingénue finds herself entrenched in a dark web of secrets, speak-easies, and Mafiosi, and everyone—from Lydia's family to their hired help (including a black housekeeper with distressingly stereotyped speech patterns) to Lydia's employer—seems like a prime suspect. Aided by a handsome young detective, Piper plunges herself further into the case, going undercover in an effort to bring Lydia justice, which leads Piper to face some hard truths about her society life. After a somewhat slow and stiff start, readers will be rewarded for their patience as tensions grow and red herrings abound. Morrill has a keen eye for historical details and setting, making Jazz Age Chicago Piper's invisible yet omnipresent sidekick. Here’s hoping this won’t be the last case for this strong and admirable female sleuth to solve.

A mostly well-crafted historical whodunit. (Historical mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-75838-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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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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