A memorable fantasy world hampered by sketchily drawn characters and stereotypical elements.

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BEARER OF THE PEARLS

From the River Rangers series , Vol. 1

Irish and Islamic mythologies collide as teenagers protect a Minnesota creek from hostile magic in this YA novel.

After 14-year-old Wendy Adair’s father dies in Iraq, her brother is arrested and her unreliable mother leaves for parts unknown. Wendy moves in with her Aunt Mary, Uncle Craig, and 14-year-old cousin Ben Preston, a nerdy boy who’s obsessed with a recent news event: A mysterious vandal has left 100 dead mussels in Minnehaha Creek. Ben is reluctant to let Wendy into his investigation, but then she meets a number of fantasy creatures, including a very attractive kelpie and two genies. Ben’s friends include Marion Werling, a socially awkward robotics aficionado, and Oliver, a Middle Eastern biology expert with a misogynistic streak; together, the boys make up the River Rangers, a team that’s dedicated to protecting Minnehaha Creek from malevolent supernatural beings. Through Oliver’s knowledge of Islamic legends, the Rangers infer that the genies are searching for a set of perfect, immensely valuable pearls. But Wendy soon realizes that they aren’t just focused on that item—they’re also looking for her. This environmentalist tale is peppered with likable magical creatures, including the charming, morally gray kelpie Cathal Corkin. Debut author Faust’s blending of Islamic and Irish traditions will leave many readers wanting to learn more about this fantasy world. However, Wendy’s feelings about her family situation are given only surface treatment, leaving her feeling underdeveloped as a character. Her constant dismissal of nerdiness and computer know-how also feels out of place for a modern teenager. In addition, the novel sometimes presents problematic stereotypes of the Middle East; for example, narrator Wendy instantly dislikes Oliver due to “some family history,” because her mother “mistrusted all Arabs or Mideasterns or whatever, claiming they were all terrorists”—a clumsy and uncomfortable take.

A memorable fantasy world hampered by sketchily drawn characters and stereotypical elements.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68201-062-4

Page Count: 164

Publisher: North Star Press of St. Cloud

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2019

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WOODSONG

A three-time Newbery Honor winner tells—in a memoir that is even more immediate and compelling than his novels—about his intimate relationship with Minnesota's north woods and the dog team he trained for Alaska's Iditarod.

Beginning with a violent natural incident (a doe killed by wolves) that spurred his own conversion from hunter and trapper to observing habitant of the forest, Paulsen draws a vivid picture of his wilderness life—where bears routinely help themselves to his dog's food and where his fiercely protective bantam adopts a nestful of quail chicks and then terrorizes the household for an entire summer. The incidents he recounts are marvelous. Built of concrete detail, often with a subtext of irony or mystery, they unite in a modest but telling self-portrait of a man who has learned by opening himself to nature—not to idyllic, sentimental nature, but to the harsh, bloody, life-giving real thing. Like nature, the dogs are uncontrollable: independent, wildly individual, yet loyal and dedicated to their task. It takes extraordinary flexibility, courage, and generosity to accept their difficult strengths and make them a team: Paulsen sees humor in their mischief and has learned (almost at the cost of his life) that rigid discipline is irrelevant, even dangerous. This wonderful book concludes with a mesmerizing, day-by-day account of Paulsen's first Iditarod—a thrilling, dangerous journey he was so reluctant to end that he almost turned back within sight of his goal. lt's almost as hard to come to the end of his journal.

This may be Paulsen's best book yet: it should delight and enthrall almost any reader.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-02-770221-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1990

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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