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

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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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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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