A timely fantasy tale of real and imaginary monsters in this YA series entry.




From the Snog Team Six series , Vol. 2

A mixed-race orphan struggles to find his place in the world as a supernatural apocalypse looms in this YA novel.

Teenage Liam Reilly has been looking out for himself for a long time. After his mother died, his father disappeared into his workas a scientist—and then he just disappeared altogether. Now Liam is a ward of the university where his father worked and tries not to make waves; he putters around in his father’s old lab, audits college classes, and attempts to reconstruct his father’s final experiment, which may have caused his disappearance. Yet Liam’s solitary, structured existence is upended when he makes friends with several smart college students and encounters a demon. As it turns out, the demon, Gerald, has been sent to help Liam defeat an invasion of other demons who intend to take over the planet. Liam and his friends must stop a group of rich, White frat boys and sorority girls from fully opening a portal to hell. Neill juggles a lot of different elements in this book, as the main character and his friends must face down not only manticores and other creatures, but also racism and xenophobia. The story jumps from the adventures on the college campus to a secondary plot in a detention center, which initially feels extraneous. The center is full of Latin American children in cages who’ve been separated from their families, who were only looking for better lives in America; they’re guarded by women who can shoot lightning from their hands and a demigod disguised as a corrections officer. Overall, Neill is at his best when he confronts racism head-on, and amid all the fantasy trappings, his novel does provide effective commentary on modern social and political issues.

A timely fantasy tale of real and imaginary monsters in this YA series entry.

Pub Date: April 17, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-63-810554-9

Page Count: 277

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell...


Adolescent criminals seek the haul of a lifetime in a fantasyland at the beginning of its industrial age.

The dangerous city of Ketterdam is governed by the Merchant Council, but in reality, large sectors of the city are given over to gangs who run the gambling dens and brothels. The underworld's rising star is 17-year-old Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands for his brutal amorality. Kaz walks with chronic pain from an old injury, but that doesn't stop him from utterly destroying any rivals. When a councilman offers him an unimaginable reward to rescue a kidnapped foreign chemist—30 million kruge!—Kaz knows just the team he needs to assemble. There's Inej, an itinerant acrobat captured by slavers and sold to a brothel, now a spy for Kaz; the Grisha Nina, with the magical ability to calm and heal; Matthias the zealot, hunter of Grishas and caught in a hopeless spiral of love and vengeance with Nina; Wylan, the privileged boy with an engineer's skills; and Jesper, a sharpshooter who keeps flirting with Wylan. Bardugo broadens the universe she created in the Grisha Trilogy, sending her protagonists around countries that resemble post-Renaissance northern Europe, where technology develops in concert with the magic that's both coveted and despised. It’s a highly successful venture, leaving enough open questions to cause readers to eagerly await Volume 2.

Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family . (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-212-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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