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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

A spunky and jubilant love letter to superhero fans.

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This YA debut stars two orphans who live in a city that benefits from—yet is somewhat plagued by—superheroes.

Seventeen-year-old Meg Sawyer resides in Lunar City. The metropolis suffers hardly any crime thanks to the Genetically Enhanced SuperVariant Program, which uses a serum to give people superpowers. Four heroes exist at a time, each with one of four abilities—telekinesis, invisibility, speed, and strength—and they serve for two years before giving up the skills. While Lunar City is safe from normal crime, the Supers frequently battle exotic villains, like Doctor Defect, in broad daylight. Both of Meg’s parents died during chaotic super-fights that trashed the city. But Meg is unsinkable. She’s got her GED, works at The Pure Bean cafe, and is best friends with a fellow orphan, 18-year-old Oliver Lee. One night, after super-fighting damages the cafe, Meg hustles to deliver a financial claim to City Hall. She finds Super No. 3 in a dumpster, injured. He says that his time as a hero is almost over, and he’d like to give her money for a fresh start in a safer city. Meg is overjoyed and hopes that Oliver will join her. But before leaving, she stumbles on evidence that the changing of the superhero guard is a more sinister affair than the public realizes. In this novel, Simonds dances gracefully on the line between realism and the many colorful tropes of the superhero genre (including chemical spills and animal bites). Excellent pacing regularly introduces characters who keep the plot fresh and fun, like Juniper Jensen, a “biogenetic engineering assistant” who helped create the Super serum. When Meg sneaks into the Saint Charles’s Academy to discover the identity of one of the Supers, aficionados of the Spider-Man comics and films should be charmed by clever—and nerdy—plot developments. Later twists, some more predictable than others, generate higher stakes for the heroes and Lunar City organically. The author maintains a consistent YA tone, never indulging in over-the-top content that some writers in the genre lean on. The potential sequel has an incredible jumping-off point.

A spunky and jubilant love letter to superhero fans.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 309

Publisher: The Parliament House

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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