A well-written series opener uncomfortably built upon real historical tragedies.


From the Alma series , Vol. 1

Pirates and enslavers traverse the 18th-century seas in this novel spanning the disparate corners of the triangular trade.

In a West African valley, 13-year-old Alma; her brothers, Lam and Soum; and their parents, Nao and Mosi, live in isolation for reasons unknown to the children. The appearance of a creature the young people take for a solid-white zebra draws their attention to the outside world, threatening the family’s serenity. The kidnapping, enslavement, and commerce of African peoples is intimately familiar to Nao, who escaped capture with the help of Mosi, a former slave trader himself. Thirteen-year-old Joseph Mars, an orphan secretly seeking a mysterious fortune, learns of the slave trade’s terror and brutality aboard The Sweet Amelie, a vessel with a callous, greedy captain that he sneaked onto in Lisbon. Lam’s pursuit of the white horse, Alma’s pursuit of her brother, and Mosi’s attempts to save his family from enslavers are interwoven with Joseph’s clandestine search for gold and the account of a 14-year-old French heiress who has inherited tremendous debts alongside ownership of The Sweet Amelie. While forming compelling threads of an adventure, the plot relies on horrors and trauma that contrast the witty, humorous, and immersive writing with the very different stakes for the European and African characters. The author’s attention to historical detail and Place’s striking line drawings add charm and romance to a story that sometimes struggles to justify either.

A well-written series opener uncomfortably built upon real historical tragedies. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-60945-787-7

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.


The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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