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Magical mysteries, action and adventure, and ruminations on grief, all in one enchanting package.

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A young woman finds herself transported to a magical world of talking animals in King’s YA novel.

Lorette “Lore” Deodarán is an awkward 18-year-old whose life is in upheaval: A new home in the town of Hazel Borough, a new school just a month from graduation, and court-ordered therapy only add to the familiar, crushing anxiety of her fraught family life. A job at a neighborhood bakery and time spent with her grandmother Mamó promise some measure of reprieve—until a big-eared, golden-eyed creature searching for a particular charm bracelet inadvertently causes Mamó’s death. When Lore attempts to catch the beast, she tumbles down the blue brick well behind her grandmother’s cabin. She lands in the town of Charmsend, in another world called Thimbleton, where humans have long been extinct. It’s a magical place, full of talking animals who wield mystical powers. Lore receives aid from an adventurous mouse named Mathilde who is working to solve the murder of her adoptive father, Gannon, a gentle giant of an alligator. The author’s prose is whip-smart and laced with poetry, regularly returning to themes of precious gems and flowers. Chapters are short and fast-paced, and the characters exchange fun, snappy dialogue (“ ‘Human, I am this size because I am a mouse, not because I am a child.’ Lore sucked on the inside of her cheek and quietly sat back down. ‘You could have just led with that, you know,’ she grumbled”) that makes the exposition go down easily. The novel excels at establishing settings; Charmsend is as bewitching as its name implies, a fully formed society with unique customs for everything, from preserving their history to burying their dead. While there’s plenty of action (including an exciting fight with a giant librarian snake), the way the story captures grief, both in how Lore recalls her grandmother after her death and how Mathilde honors her father, is equally impactful.

Magical mysteries, action and adventure, and ruminations on grief, all in one enchanting package.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781958607718

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Inimitable Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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