In the end, this debut feels long and may not contain enough real substance to appeal to even the most avid of summer-camp...

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FIVE SUMMERS

BFFs Emma, Jo, Skylar and Maddie meet up at Camp Nedoba the year after their last summer at the traditional camp, intending to renew their personal vows of loyalty to each other and to enjoy a nostalgic week of s’mores and summer fun.

The lifelong friendships start to crack under the strain of very real adult dilemmas caused by boyfriend trouble, deception and betrayal. The girls are forced to examine their summer-camp relationships through the prism of their increasingly complex lives. Each of the four harbors a secret that is revealed at an inopportune moment. Middle-class Maddie has invented a wealthy family; Skylar doesn’t get along with her demanding father; Emma has a secret, unrequited passion for one of the boys at camp; tomboy Jo, the daughter of the camp owner, realizes that being the life and soul of camp administration is not helping her image in the boyfriend stakes. However, in the end, friendship trumps all, and each girl finds her own resolution to life’s gnarly problems. The chirpy narrative, though introduced in Emma’s first-person, alternates its third-person focus from girl to girl and is punctuated by flashbacks to earlier summers. Despite orienting chapter headers, the lack of differentiation of flashbacks from the present-day story is sometimes confusing.

In the end, this debut feels long and may not contain enough real substance to appeal to even the most avid of summer-camp fans. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59514-672-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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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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