Fast-paced and wonderfully, forcefully loud about privilege—but, premise aside, this explores discrimination more than...

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CHANGERS

FOREVER

From the Changers series , Vol. 4

A Changer never returns to their childhood name and body; for adulthood, they choose one of the identities they’ve experienced serially during high school.

This first-person protagonist has been a thin white girl, a thin black boy, and a fat Filipina-looking (as described in the previous book) girl. As this series-ender opens, she’s still Kim Cruz, with one more incarnation looming. Changers’ raison d’être is to mend the world because humans who’ve lived as more than one race or gender would never discriminate. This premise posits race and gender as exterior traits; deep connection to various identities is missing, and changes bring no new cultural knowledge. The protagonist cannot learn with any fullness what it’s like to be a fat Asian girl unless we reduce “being” to issues of discrimination and privilege, ignoring the many layers and facets to any identity apart from how others treat you. Additionally, being “postgay and postgender” is considered evolved, which almost dismisses distinct identities more than honoring them. In other ways, however, the text is admirably anti-racist, anti-sexist, and pro-queer, the latter including a refreshingly mellow attitude about bisexuality. Social justice murkiness aside, the suspense is high, the plot is irresistible, and contemporary cultural references overflow—from edibles to hashtags. This series is knowingly cool but still cool (though quoting Audre Lorde without attribution isn’t—and is a missed opportunity to educate readers unfamiliar with her work).

Fast-paced and wonderfully, forcefully loud about privilege—but, premise aside, this explores discrimination more than identity. (glossary) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61775-528-6

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Black Sheep/Akashic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Witty and funny, with well-rounded characters who face complex inner moral issues.

HOUSE OF DRAGONS

From the House of Dragons series , Vol. 1

In a world dominated by order, chaos threatens to upend tradition when unlikely competitors are chosen to fight for the throne.

Emperor Erasmus is dead, leaving the Great Dragon to decide the future of the Etrusian Empire. Traditionally, the oldest child from each of the five Houses and his or her dragon compete for the throne. However, this time outsiders are called to compete: Chara and her rider, Emilia, youngest daughter of House Aurun, who holds the magic of chaos; Tyche and her rider, Lucian, reformed warrior of House Sabel; Karina and her rider, Vespir, the lowborn, lesbian servant girl and dragon handler of House Pentri; Dog and his rider, Ajax, the wily illegitimate son of House Tiber; and Minerva and her rider, Julia, who are challenged by Hyperia, who believes the throne is her birthright, and her feral dragon, Aufidius. During the stages of the Emperor’s Trial—the Hunt, the Game, the Race, and the Truth—each competitor faces their own personal weaknesses. Multiple perspectives create depth in this complex fantasy world with flawed human characters who have murder, destruction, thievery, and cowardice in their backgrounds. Cluess’ dragons have unique personalities and voices of their own, becoming as central to the story as their human riders. Most characters are cued as white; blonde hair and blue eyes are valorized. Vespir’s lesbian identity is neatly and naturally woven into her character.

Witty and funny, with well-rounded characters who face complex inner moral issues. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-64815-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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