An exuberant start to a promising new YA series about a totalitarian America.

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Counteract

From the The Resistance Series series , Vol. 1

Lawson (Resist, 2012, etc.) mixes true-to-life fears with intimate character portrayals in this conspiracy thriller, her first work of YA fiction.

In the not-too-distant future, tensions across the globe escalate, and America transforms into a totalitarian state to protect its citizens. Many basic freedoms and creature comforts, from large public gatherings to grocery shopping, remain distant memories, as the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense assures citizens that these measures will keep them secure. But “Compliance is a small price to pay for your safety” isn’t good enough for Careen Catecher and Tommy Bailey, 18-year-olds whose dark histories give them a unique perspective on threats and control. When the OCSD announces an antidote to a dangerous new terrorist weapon, the public accepts the drug without question. But Careen and Tommy, among others, experience vivid hallucinations and profound disorientation, and it becomes harder and harder to think about why they’re taking the medication. When it becomes clear that the threat is a fabrication and the so-called antidote is nothing but a tool to pacify and control the populace, the two decide they must leave everything behind to escape and find the Resistance. At one point, a Resistance member explains the movement’s philosophy: “Free thinkers, like those of us in the Resistance, want to decide for ourselves what’s good for us. We’d like our private affairs to remain private. We’d like the chance to take a risk.” While the psychedelic quality of some of the early chapters makes it difficult to initially connect with the characters, they quickly grow and morph into striking individuals. Beyond Tommy’s ongoing struggle with injury and Careen’s deep-seated anger, the novel introduces a host of secondary characters with their own senses of purpose and drive, rendering a mad world human. As with many dystopian settings, parts of the conspiracy strain the limits of believability, but the concept here is deeper and more complex than one might expect at first glance. The author delivers intriguing details about this fractured world, from the nuances of how the government divided the country into quadrants to the fact that the antidote contains a large quantity of LSD—a clever reference to America’s real-life experimentation with the drug in Project MKUltra. There’s much here to discover.

An exuberant start to a promising new YA series about a totalitarian America.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9966108-0-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lawson Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2016

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An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and...

White Tiger Legend

Set presumably in 12th-century China, an action-packed YA read about a young Shaolin monk named Zi who embarks on a harrowing journey of self-discovery after his temple and everything he ever knew are destroyed.

With the Gathering of the Ways quickly approaching, the entire population of the famed Shaolin Temple is frenetically preparing for the annual gathering of elite warriors from distant kingdoms who come together to test their abilities against the temple’s best kung fu practitioners. But when a cunning, morally bankrupt fighter known as the Red Dragon defeats the temple’s champion (who happens to be Zi’s older brother, Hu Yuan) and razes the temple in search of its mystical secrets, young Zi is forced to begin the Great Journey—essentially a treacherous quest of enlightenment that may ultimately reveal the greatest secret of the temple. On the quest, Zi meets and befriends a diversity of characters (like Bok Choi the grasshopper and a mysterious lady of the river named Auntie) who not only help the young Buddhist monk survive, but offer him wise advice as well. While the character of Zi is undeniably endearing, as is his insect sidekick, the story isn’t without minor flaws. The text is littered with grammatical errors (“Well stand down soldier. Watch how a ladies mantis goes about getting the goods son”), some of the fight scenes drag and become monotonous, and at points, the metaphysical nature of kung fu arguably goes too deep for the average reader (the sequence where the author connects chakras with the digestion of various foods, for example).

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and spiritual philosophical undertones.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9929738-0-3

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Kory Juul Enterprises Corp

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

The Lie They Told

A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

When a teenage girl in 1925 Chicago kills her violent stepfather, her mother takes the blame in this YA novel.

Carola Pawlak, 15, living in Chicago’s Polish Town, is shy, studious, and badly dressed, although other girls sometimes say her looks are “promising.” She dreams of becoming a writer and has few friends other than Stan Carlson, a handsome Roma boy. She and her sweet mother, Maria, walk on eggshells around Carola’s angry, explosive stepfather, Henry Jaworski. That is, until a fight one day in which Carola, trying to protect her mother, strikes back. He attempts to destroy a prized silver amulet that Stan gave her—but it has a hidden knife, and Carola plunges it into Henry’s chest. Maria confesses to the crime, forcing a promise from Carola to go along, and is arrested. Unexpected help then arrives: Louise Lazaar, “the Chicago Tribune’s leading ‘sob sister.’ ” Sensing a story, Lazaar brings Carola to see T.J. O’Malley, Chicago’s best criminal lawyer, who takes her mother’s case. Carola gets a makeover—bobbed hair, cosmetics, new clothes—and Lazaar dubs her and Maria the “Mother-Daughter Angels,” writing stories such as, “‘She Did It for Me,’ Says Angel Daughter.” But Maria’s still in danger from other prisoners, and Carola learns that Stan’s in trouble for giving her the mysterious amulet. Arbeiter (A Mouton Coat: The Hunt for a Mother’s Story, 2013, etc.) offers a sympathetic YA heroine who’s also conventional in that she doesn’t feel beautiful but is, and she wants to be a writer. Her romance with Stan is sweet and provides a little heat, and Carola has a chance to play the rescuer instead of the rescuee, which is unusual in the YA genre. The 1920s setting is also vivid; Arbeiter gives a well-rounded sense of the era’s highlights, such as flappers and actor Rudolph Valentino, and challenges, such as crime and injustice.

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

Pub Date: June 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-59-0

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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