A captivating, exciting, and thoughtful time-manipulation story.

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SLOWER

In this YA sci-fi thriller, a teenager discovers that he has the ability to slow time—and that another “slower” like him has committed nefarious crimes.

Fourteen-year-old Emit Friend, of a Princeton, New Jersey, suburb, has a few problems: ADHD, a sleeping disorder that makes him drowsy during the day, trouble concentrating, and frequent, bad headaches. During an especially boring science class, he daydreams about playing a prank on his teacher by hiding her textbook. When she accuses Emit of stealing it, he doesn’t understand—he was only daydreaming. Emit’s principal is sympathetic, and after the teacher finds her textbook where Emit imagined hiding it, he advises the young man to think about how it happened. So Emit pays attention while he “zone[s] out”—and discovers that he can move at normal speed while everything else is slowed down, almost frozen. Emit is delighted at being a “slower,” using his superpower to get the better of bullies, trick friends, and even change the course of a professional football game. But he soon discovers the ability’s dark side: “it’s fun to use power. And it’s much easier to use power to do bad than to do good.” It turns out that someone close to him is an even more powerful slower who’s done terrible things—and that person wants to join forces with Emit. To prevent a catastrophe, Emit must stop the other slower before it’s too late. In his debut novel, Shepherd beautifully orchestrates the manner in which Emit’s story unfolds. The teenage protagonist has a mischievous personality, so it makes sense that he initially slows time for mild pranks on friends and enemies. The escalation from unwitting to deliberate harm feels natural—and all the more chilling for being so. Emit’s musings on right, wrong, and whether one’s actions are forgivable make for scenes that are just as compelling as the book’s taut, action-packed climax. His voice is natural and engaging, carrying readers along in this page-turner, and side characters play vivid roles as well. A satisfying ending offers a surprise or two and may leave readers hoping for a sequel.

A captivating, exciting, and thoughtful time-manipulation story.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-578-42481-1

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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