Peter, an 11-year-old traffic fatality, finds himself looking down on his funeral as a voice offers him a do-over. He...

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            Another ingenious but leaky story from Sleator (The Boxes, 1998, etc.), likely to leave readers more puzzled than intrigued.

            Peter, an 11-year-old traffic fatality, finds himself looking down on his funeral as a voice offers him a do-over.  He eagerly accepts, only to discover that the past has a stubborn momentum; he’s killed again, gets another chance, and blows that one, too.  Convinced that the key to survival lies in winning the appreciation of his clueless, cold-hearted parents, Peter displays consideration by waiting hand and foot on his pregnant mother, creativity by putting on an elaborate puppet show to explain his feelings, and cleverness by predicting local events that haven’t yet happened, then contriving to shift the resulting public furor onto a bullying classmate.  Apparently, all of this makes him a more thoughtful person, so his fatal attraction to passing automobiles ceases.  The premise, with its echoes of many books and movies, will only be new to very inexperienced readers, but the cheerlessness of Peter’s home life gives the whole story a drab cast, and the internal logic seems more convenient than consistent.  Sleator has a following, but he won’t win any new fans with this one.  (Fiction.  10-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46130-2

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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THE NIGHT DANCE

Weak writing ruins a nicely structured integration of Arthurian legend with a Grimm’s fairy tale. Rowena’s locked up with her 11 sisters because her father’s afraid that they’ll disappear like their mother, Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake. Each night they disappear underground, where dancing destroys their elegant slippers. Elsewhere, Sir Bedivere promises a dying King Arthur to return Excalibur to Vivienne. Bedivere and Rowena share reciprocal mystical visions in which they fall in love. The sisters’ nightly dancing, as well as their goal of finding their lost mother, leads to the same enchanted underground lake as Bedivere’s task of honor. Details of “Twelve Dancing Princesses” are skillfully woven in with the Camelot plot; however, the text is cluttered with modifiers, the narration is unsubtle and trite and the workings of magic are shallow. Instead, see Vivian Vande Velde’s Book of Mordred (July 2005) and Dia Calhoun’s Phoenix Dance (October 2005). (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4169-0579-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2005

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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