Mildly amusing, with a silly, stomach-turning premise conveying sober concepts.

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THE GREAT HIBERNATION

When a bizarre ritual goes haywire, Kids Say the Darndest Things meets Lord of the Flies.

In St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord, citizens over 12 partake in the annual commemoration of the town’s founding by eating of the Sacred Bear Liver. They engage in this loathsome rite to avoid falling into a monthslong slumber, a fate suffered by the original settlers. This year, white Jean Huddy participates for the first time but secretly barfs up her portion. Then, against all odds, everyone over 12 who did sample the liver falls fast asleep, leaving only the town’s children—including Jean and Isara, a 13-year-old boy of Thai heritage—awake and obligated to assume their parents’ jobs. The author mines a few laughs from kids’ performing adult work, but some aspects are sinister: the mayor’s xenophobic son revels in his tyranny; the town bullies are strict law enforcers. An unconvincing mystery subplot involves a startling revelation about what happened to the grown-ups, the discovery of a secret formula to reverse the sleep, and Jean’s and her friends’ frantic scramble to interpret and use it to awaken the sleepers. Themes abound in this political satire, with its “Sleeping Beauty” and Shakespearean overtones, including clueless adults, governmental corruption, shady corporate dealings, usurpation of power, anti-immigration sentiments, unethical science, and animal cruelty. Savvy readers may glean some hints about the current charged political scene. These disparate storylines coalesce uneasily.

Mildly amusing, with a silly, stomach-turning premise conveying sober concepts. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1785-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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