Pair with Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars (2013) for an insider point of view of Islam.

IN A PERFECT WORLD

A white Catholic teen from Ohio spends her months in Cairo getting to know her gorgeous Egyptian driver while learning about social justice and international fellowship.

When her mother gets the chance of a lifetime to open up a Doctors Without Borders–style eye clinic in Egypt, Caroline’s both nervous and excited. She ignores dire warnings from her beloved-but-“racist” grandmother, who’s convinced terrorists lurk around every corner. Cairo gains appeal when Caroline meets her driver, Adam, an aspiring chef who shows her a Cairo beyond stereotypes: not just pyramids, but churches, jerk chicken, and Egyptian reggae. At every opportunity Caroline muses on how Egypt resembles home: the call to prayer like church bells, Islam’s attitude about dating resembling her grandmother’s, the unmet promises of the Arab Spring compared to Ferguson. Adam and Caroline have much in common (they’ve both been sorted into Hufflepuff, for instance), but religion, class, and culture demand they stay apart. Caroline’s awareness of the imperialist undertones of her relationship with Adam doesn’t make her stop loving him, and they both struggle to do what’s right. There’s a place for unsubtle messaging about white Americans learning to see humanity in the Muslim world, and Caroline—with her likable tattooed father and her mouthwatering descriptions of food—is a pleasant vehicle for the lesson.

Pair with Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars (2013) for an insider point of view of Islam. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7988-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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