A tender, harrowing story of family, friendship, and the pursuit of freedom.

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THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET

Forced to labor on an Ivory Coast cacao plantation, Amadou risks everything for freedom.

Fifteen-year-old Amadou left his family farm with his little brother, Seydou, searching for a season of work to help their family survive during a drought. Two long years later, the boys are still at the cacao camp where they have been taken and made to work “all day, week after week, season after season, never getting paid.” Amadou, Seydou, and the other boys at the camp must harvest a high quota of cacao pods each day or face severe beatings. When a girl—the camp’s first—arrives, her “wildcat” spirit stirs in Amadou a renewed sense of urgency to escape. The girl, Khadija, also causes trouble for Amadou and Seydou with the camp bosses, setting off a chain of horrific, life-changing events that start the children on an uncertain journey toward home. Following Golden Boy (2013), this is Sullivan’s second novel about real-life atrocities affecting children in Africa. With it, she delivers an unforgettable story of courage and compassion while illuminating the terrible truth about how the chocolate we consume is made. At the same time, Sullivan allows Amadou, Khadija, and Seydou to be the resilient heroes of their own story, just as their real-life counterparts around the world fight against the odds for change in their communities.

A tender, harrowing story of family, friendship, and the pursuit of freedom. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17307-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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