A remarkable tale of youthful resilience overshadowed by an abundance of teenage angst.


A 15-year-old girl comes of age in the Dutch East Indies as World War II ends in this YA romance loosely based on a true story.

Van Duyn credits Nora Valk as the inspiration for this novel about a teenager’s struggles. Nell Arends is interned in 1942 with family members on Java after the Japanese invade the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Her father, a pilot for the Dutch East Indies army, is imprisoned in Japan. Nell chronicles her arduous journey, beginning with her release from a jungle prison camp following the Japanese surrender in 1945. Her mother now dead, she travels with her aunt to the Javanese city of Jogjakarta. Then, while the Indonesians revolt to overthrow Dutch colonial rule, the two escape by ship to a Singapore refugee camp. Nell’s father reappears and makes some unilateral decisions—first settling her in a beach resort near Sydney, Australia; next, in a girls boarding school far from Sydney and her friends; and then in the Netherlands. He remains on Java, quietly marrying a woman and tacitly wanting Nell out of the way. Despite the incredible events occurring, Nell’s constant obsession is with Tim Thissen, a boy she meets briefly on a harrowing transport while fleeing internment. The author presents an extraordinary survival story with rich details. But the book’s opening sentence, “I was fifteen and I had never kissed a boy,” epitomizes the focus of a tale rife with dramatic potential. Whatever is happening around her—war, her mother’s death, violent revolution—Nell remains a typical teenager. While waiting a few hours for a train after escaping the prison camp, she whines: “I’d rather be standing in line in the camp waiting for my food!” After arriving safely in Singapore, she complains that “now I wish I were back on board the ship.” Reunited with her father, who likely was tortured in a Japanese prison camp, she exhibits little compassion for his attempts to restart his life. As a narrator, the infatuated Nell lacks perspective, and the action often meanders. Translated from the Dutch by Hoegen, the novel abounds with awkward phrasing: “I’m fifteen now and so are you, of course, but you’ve changed so much”; “After years, I meet you in the safe house and now I’m sharing the same cabin with you.”

A remarkable tale of youthful resilience overshadowed by an abundance of teenage angst.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-912430-43-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Aurora Metro Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2020

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.


From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun...


When a cyclone deposits a 21st-century Kansas teen in Oz, she and readers discover there’ve been some changes made.

Dirt-poor “Salvation Amy” Gumm lives in a trailer park, effectively parenting her alcoholic mom (her dad ran off years ago), who seems to care more about her pet rat, Star, than her daughter. That doesn’t mean Amy is eager to be in Oz, particularly this Oz. Tyrannized by a megalomaniacal Dorothy and mined of its magic, it’s a dystopian distortion of the paradise Baum and MGM depicted. In short order, Amy breaks the wholly capricious laws and is thrown into a cell in the Emerald City with only Star for company. There, she’s visited first by the mysterious but sympathetic Pete and then by the witch Mombi, who breaks her out and takes her to the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (among whom is the very hot Nox). Amy may well be the salvation of Oz—only someone from the Other Place can take Dorothy down. Paige has clearly had the time of her life with this reboot, taking a dystopian-romance template and laying it over Oz. Readers of Baum’s books will take special delight in seeing new twists on the old characters, and they will greet the surprise climactic turnabout with the smugness of insiders.

In the end, it’s just another violent dystopian series opener for all its yellow-brick veneer, but it’s a whole lot more fun than many of its ilk. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228067-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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