An astronaut tale with a recklessly brave, appealing hero but sometimes-faltering prose.


A 13-year-old aspiring space pilot joins a rescue mission to help a storm-damaged planet in this YA novel.

In her first adventure, 12-year-old Amy Sutter stole the Union spaceship Liberty Bell and rescued her father from the Crownaxians, an alien race whose leader wants to annihilate humanity. That was last year; now, back on her home planet, Paldor, Amy’s bold, fearless spirit keeps getting her into big trouble. Nevertheless, she and her friend Ethan are tapped to join a mission to help the planet Janar, where a huge storm wreaked destruction. On arriving, though, the team meets disaster. Terrorists kidnap Union soldiers, and Dr. Stanley Greenland, a scientist with a grudge against the Union, is building a robot army. Amy and her friends face enormous dangers that not everyone will survive as they investigate Greenland’s lab and work to free the hostages. Continuing the story in Amy the Astronaut and the Flight for Freedom (2013), Donahue draws a vivid picture of his irrepressible hero, who rises to every challenge—whether a space battle or a laser-pistol firefight. The plot offers exciting scenes of danger, battle, and hairbreadth escapes, with a chilling villain in Drelk, the Crownaxian leader, who admires Earth “ Stalin, Hitler, Gaddafi, and Trump.” That said, the writing can be ungraceful, as in stilted, contraction-free conversations: “They are over there....They are sleeping now.” Some details are unnecessary and clunky, as in “she cleaned up the spilled water with a towel. She tossed the towel into a chute that led to a laundry bin.” And the 13-year-olds display implausibly intense romantic feelings, with Amy breaking into a sweat over an attractive alien boy and Ethan tightening his fists with rage over his “rival.”

An astronaut tale with a recklessly brave, appealing hero but sometimes-faltering prose.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948374-14-9

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Twin Sisters Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

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A resounding success.


This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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