If Becky actually were a manic pixie dream girl, there’d at least be some whimsy breaking up the dragging, self-centered,...

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MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRL

Nothing gives a boy moral superiority like being awkwardly aroused by the least popular girl in high school.

Tyler’s friends call him “jerk,” “idiot,” “dick” and “asshead.” Could he possibly be that bad? Is it that much of a problem that he’s been dating sweet Sydney Barrett for years while crushing hard on friendless Becky Webb, shunned by everyone else in school for being the town slut? In a narrative that interleaves exposition-heavy flashbacks with his present (wasted in the park, drunk on butterscotch-pudding shooters), Tyler describes the history of his relationship with Becky. Perhaps that should be his nonrelationship, because he has spent years being unkind to Sydney while gazing dreamily at Becky’s tattoo from across the cafeteria. Tyler’s tortured overtures to Becky would be more believably redemptive if he didn’t share in his classmates’ double standard of shaming, needing to find a reason for Becky’s sexual activities before he can find her worthy. Tyler, apparently, deserves a medal for choosing not to have meaningless sex with a suffering friend; what a hero.

If Becky actually were a manic pixie dream girl, there’d at least be some whimsy breaking up the dragging, self-centered, deeply unkind angst . (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87005-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy.

THE TEMPLE OF DOUBT

From the Temple of Doubt series , Vol. 1

A fantasy series opener pits adolescent angst against an all-powerful religion.

Living in Port Sapphire, on the island of New Meridian in the world of Kuldor, almost-16-year-old Hadara chafes under the tenets of a religion headed by the god Nihil that teaches that magic is superior to anything in nature. Since Hadara and her mother continue the passed-down-in-the-female-line family business of concocting healing potions from plants, the two are regarded with suspicion even as their services are sought out by townspeople. When an object falls from the sky into the marsh, Azwans (mages of Nihil) and their oversized Feroxi guards arrive to investigate, complicating things for Hadara and her family, not least because Hadara begins to have feelings for one of the guards. Although Hadara is a delightfully pert narrator, the story’s foremost tension—her subversive doubt of Nihil’s tenets—fails to reach its full potential because the religious concepts are not convincingly clear enough to weave themselves inextricably into the story. Levy shines brightest in her potent descriptions of settings and her imaginative scenes. Continuity, however, is a recurring problem. Among other lapses, the first two chapters seem to be two separate beginnings.

It’s imaginative enough, but it lacks the convincing philosophical worldbuilding essential to successful fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-427-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

HIT

A dual-narrator novel explores the concept of forgiveness.

Budding poet Sarah is torn between two colleges: Mills, which has offered her a full scholarship, and the University of Washington, whose only appeal is Mr. Haddings. A grad student and poet-in-residence at her school, the charismatic Haddings has Sarah considering a change of plans, to the dismay of Sarah’s controlling mother. Haddings knows he needs to keep the relationship professional, but he’s having a hard time with that. Then, in a moment of distraction, Haddings hits Sarah with his car. Over the next three days, Sarah will cope with the pain, the accident and her worries about her future, while her family—oblivious father, brittle mother and immature brother—and her best friend try to help her. Haddings copes with his crushing guilt, usually making choices that make everything worse. Straining credulity, both Sarah and Haddings wonder if there might be a chance for them still, when the more important question is whether they can ever forgive. Plot events are sequenced poorly and depend far too much on coincidence for their effect; the dual narrative does not provide substantial additional insight, making it feel contrived as well. Stilted dialogue makes characters feel flat, particularly Sarah’s brother.

Forgettable. (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-7295-0-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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