SUNNY SONG WILL NEVER BE FAMOUS

A Los Angeles teen YouTuber is forced to disconnect from Wi-Fi but finds new connections in an unexpected place.

Sun-Hee “Sunny” Song’s parents are already on her case since her prep school headmaster met with them to address Sunny’s social media activity during school hours. So after her parents and younger sister, Chloe, walk in on her during an accidentally racy cooking livestream, later dubbed #BrownieGate and #BrowniePorn, Sunny is sent to Sunshine Heritage Farms, a digital media detox camp in Iowa where technology is banned and campers are required to attend daily group sessions and contribute to the farm’s maintenance. Sunny encounters internet socialites of all kinds, including Delina, a Black mukbang livestreamer whom she later befriends, and Wendy, a popular and intimidating White athletic influencer whose arc is never fully resolved. Desperate to stay connected, Sunny sneaks a cellphone into camp and keeps up with her best friend, Maya, who forwards updates on her status in an influencer contest. But as Sunny grows closer to sweet and hardworking Theo, a White boy whose family runs the farm, and reflects on the impact of social media on her life and future, her priorities begin to shift. Park smartly and honestly weaves Sunny’s nuanced experience as a Korean American into a story that is ultimately about human identity in our advanced age of social networking. Valuable lessons learned and a cute romance are wrapped up with a sentimental ending.

Quirky and insightful. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72820-942-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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