Appetizing flashes of wit and occasional vivid moments leave readers hungry for a real meal.

THE BAR CODE PROPHECY

From the Bar Code series , Vol. 3

The third installment of this series about bar-coded humans, set in the near future, gets off to a strong start, but flimsy characterization and slipshod storytelling sink the promising high concept.

Grace can’t wait to get her bar-code tattoo when she turns 17 in two days, but Eric, her crush at the climbing gym, has doubts. He suspects the manufacturer, genetics arm of megacorporation Global-1, may still be releasing malicious nanobots with the tattoos. Grace is sure he’s wrong—her dad works for Global-1, and besides, it’s convenient to have all that encrypted personal information tattooed on your wrist. She learns otherwise when she runs into her father’s colleague Dr. Harriman. Alarmed to see her new tattoo, he tells her to go home immediately, where she finds her family gone and her home invaded by well-armed Global-1 security police. Soon Grace herself lands in the hands of Decode, an underground group opposed to Global-1. This is promising material, but worldbuilding is superficial, and the generic characters are nearly indistinguishable. Substituting action for substance, the frenetic plot serves up dollops of underdeveloped rubber science and vaguely Hopi and Navajo mysticism without investing the effort needed to bring it all to life.

Appetizing flashes of wit and occasional vivid moments leave readers hungry for a real meal. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-42529-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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