A fast-paced, familiar tale with strong echoes of Tolkien, Pullman, and Pokémon.

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THE INQUISITION

From the Summoner Trilogy series , Vol. 2

An underdog and his unlikely companions go to war in this sequel to The Novice (2015).

It’s been two years since Fletcher Wulf fled the village of Pelt and one year since he won the tournament at Vocans Academy only to end up imprisoned. Now on trial, 16-year-old Fletcher (pale of skin and dark of eyes and hair) confronts both his hometown foe, Didric, and academy rivals, and he sees the racial and class tensions dividing the land. Although a last-minute revelation frees Fletcher—and offers the orphan an origin story—Fletcher’s possible nobility wins no favor with gloating villains who surpass schoolyard bullying for serious violence. An Everykid hero, raised as a commoner but now magically gifted and martially trained, Fletcher reunites with friends dwarf Othello and elf Sylva and earns new allies. But the Hominum Empire is at war, so Fletcher and his friends—and enemies—fully armed and assisted by an expansive menagerie of animal-sidekick demons, embark on a mission behind orcish lines to sabotage their opponents, earning acclaim as their deeds are broadcast back home. Matharu offers a derivative story with continuous action and occasional gross-out humor; its worldbuilding is a cheerful mishmash of geography, chronology, and mythology blending guns, magic, and exoticized indigenous tropes. Given the last, its blunt message against injustice and prejudice feels a smidge ironic.

A fast-paced, familiar tale with strong echoes of Tolkien, Pullman, and Pokémon. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07631-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story.

YOU HAVE A MATCH

A DNA test reveals that Abby has a sister she never knew about—and they head off to summer camp together to uncover family secrets.

When 16-year-old Abby’s best friend and secret crush, Leo, asks her to do a mail-in DNA test with him, Abby mostly agrees to give him a little push, as he clearly wants to find out more about his birth family. While the results don’t help Leo, they bring a shocking result for Abby: She has a full-blooded sister, 18-year-old Instagram wellness star Savvy, who lives in another Seattle suburb. After meeting and realizing their respective parents used to be friends, the two girls decide to meet again at summer camp. Unfortunately, camp gets off to a rough start; Savvy is a stickler for rules, Abby didn’t read the rules in the first place, and Leo is a camp chef, which only intensifies Abby’s feelings for him. With a summer full of new friends, hijinks, delicious food, and digging up secrets, Abby has to learn to lean in and own up to the complicated parts of life. This is a heartwarming novel of friendship and family, with a little romance. The story and characters have depth and emotion, touching on topics of broken friendships, losing a loved one, deception, social media, and pursuing what you love. Abby, Savvy, and Leo’s adoptive parents are White; Leo is Filipino.

A cute, feel-good coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23730-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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