Fans of gods, goddesses, and the X-Men should invest in this character-driven debut.



In this YA fantasy debut, wayward teens come under the guidance of a benefactor with a mysterious agenda.

Amherst Snowden established Young Haven to help outcast teens develop their potentials in a safe and judgment-free environment. In the bunk area, 17-year-old Ray meets Farrah and Evie, two young ladies, each lovely in her own way. Evie, however, knows his name without being told—because she can read minds. Then in walks Carys, a girl whose beauty radiates with an otherworldly intensity. Elsewhere in the bunks, artistic Xandra meets twin brothers Rian and Roan and infers that the teens may have been brought here because of their juvenile records. Later, Snowden addresses his crowded amphitheater and reveals that the teens are directly descended from mythological gods found in ancient Greek, Aztec, Norse, and Egyptian cultures. Further, he says they’re “biologically immortal,” i.e., they’ve got triple DNA helixes and can’t die unless forcibly killed. Snowden knows this because of research on his own daughter, Portia, who died at the age of 13. His story seems absurd, yet Ray can control fire, and the other teens all have powers, too. After a motorbike accident bonds the seven protagonists, Snowden presents them with a unique challenge, drawing them deeper into a world they thought impossible. With her knack for cutting dialogue and whip-smart characterization, debut author Burke stakes out fresh ground in the genre towered over by Rick Riordan (The Lightning Thief, 2005). Snowden, who’s missing a leg, says, “The only handicap I know a person to have is self-pity.” Between chapters are sayings, quotes, and mythological vignettes that sharpen the following action: e.g., “Altruism can be a motivator. But usually it is personal gain.” The prose consistently layers in details about the teen psyche, and in the narrative’s second half, it also delivers horror atmospherics: “In place of the [ghoul’s] lips is singed, gray colored skin that bears dark, purple trenches surrounding their mouths.” Burke will hopefully keep her richly crafted immortals alive for a sequel.

Fans of gods, goddesses, and the X-Men should invest in this character-driven debut.

Pub Date: April 8, 2015


Page Count: 205

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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