Sobering, thoroughly credible and, ultimately, optimistic about the chances of our better natures triumphing when the going...

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THE SURVIVORS

A family fleeing rapidly degenerating social order caused by world-changing volcanic eruptions finds respite and new heart in this well-crafted sequel to Memory Boy (2001).

Driven from their comfortable home outside Minneapolis in the previous episode by increasingly brutal hard times and a rising tide of lawlessness, the Newells have taken refuge in an isolated cabin in the north woods—knowing that they have to adapt to radically changed living conditions, and also to keep from being identified by local residents as homeless “Travelers” to be hustled along, or worse. Fortunately, eighth-grader Sarah and her equally urbanized, floundering parents have big brother Miles to lean on, with his tough, commonsense outlook, ready shotgun and a photographic memory stocked with information on living off the land. But they can’t always be dependent on him, as they discover when he is sidelined by a devastating injury. Weaver paints a realistic picture of life without electricity or plumbing, from the constant labor required to keep the wood pile stocked to killing and dressing a deer. And, even more compellingly, in the Newells’ contacts with others, he portrays a society in which some struggle to maintain cherished values and stability while others succumb to increasing suspicion, parochialism and desperation.

Sobering, thoroughly credible and, ultimately, optimistic about the chances of our better natures triumphing when the going gets rough. (Science fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-009476-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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