The ultimate lesson—of having empathy for oneself as well as for others whose wounds may be invisible—is well-taken though...

THE WAY WE BARED OUR SOULS

Five New Mexico teens undergo a soul-cleansing ritual, with varied results.

Consuelo “Lo” McDonough is struggling with a likely diagnosis of early-onset multiple sclerosis, which also took the life of her beloved aunt Karine. When a mysterious but oddly comforting stranger named Jay offers to perform a healing ritual, Lo jumps at the chance, quickly gathering the four similarly damaged friends she needs to complete the group for the ritual. The five teens—grieving Kit, former child soldier Thomas, drug addict Ellen, impervious-to-pain Kaya and Lo herself—discover that though they no longer suffer from their original ailments, their problems have been swapped. Kit receives Ellen’s addictive personality and uses it to embrace life again, nearly a year after his girlfriend’s tragic death, while Ellen’s experience of Lo’s neurological symptoms forces her to be physically and mentally present in a way she hasn’t been in ages. The most spiritually significant transformation is also the most cringe-inducing: When Kaya takes on Thomas’ emotional trauma, she taps into supposed historical memories of white soldiers attacking her American Indian ancestors, with tragic results in the present. Although specific references to legends of and historic atrocities against the American Indians of the Southwest are sprinkled about, there is no attempt to authenticate Kaya’s experience.

The ultimate lesson—of having empathy for oneself as well as for others whose wounds may be invisible—is well-taken though sadly heavy-handed. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-735-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Sweet, if unremarkable.

BRIARHEART

A gentle “Sleeping Beauty”–inspired tale of teens training to defend a baby princess.

Fifteen-year-old Miri, beloved stepdaughter of the king, is freshly in love—with her baby sister. As the novel opens, Aurora’s christening looms, and any Disney fan will know what’s coming. However, this is Miri’s story, and pages of first-person description and exposition come before those events. Tirendell, like all kingdoms, has Light and Dark Fae. Dark Fae feed off human misery and sadness, but their desire to cause harm for self-benefit is tempered by the Rules. The Rules state that they can only act against humans under certain conditions, one being that those who have crossed them, for example, by failing to invite them to a royal christening, are fair game. Miri steps up instinctively at the moment of crisis and both deflects the curse and destroys the Dark Fae, which leads to the bulk of the novel: an extended and detailed day-to-day journey with Miri and her five largely indistinguishable new friends as they train in combat and magic to protect Aurora from future threats. With limited action and a minimal plot, this story lacks wide appeal but is notable for the portrait of deep familial love and respect, while the brief, episodic adventures (including talking animals) offer small pleasures. All characters are implied to be White.

Sweet, if unremarkable. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5745-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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