This thriller is bogged down by polemic and poor character development

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CONCENTR8

A near-future thriller about overprescription.

It's a London much like the real one but for one change: the city has been funding the distribution of Concentr8, an ADHD medication, for all misbehaving students. When budget cuts lead to the discontinuation of the Concentr8 program, London erupts in riots. Amid the chaos, Blaze leads his followers Troy, Femi, Karen, and Lee away from the looting—then promptly kidnaps a municipal worker. Over the next six days, this impulsive act becomes a full-blown hostage crisis. The point of view shifts in heavily stylized voices among the kidnappers, the hostage, an investigative journalist, the mayor, even the police negotiator. Several of the teens begin to be fleshed out among all the stock characters: Troy's dedication to Blaze; Femi's desire to escape the situation; Karen's knowledge that she's got a potential future to destroy. The exception is Lee, with his degradingly portrayed developmental disability, who acts as mere set dressing. Meanwhile, the journalist seeks answers about Concentr8, and the teens begin to argue. Unfortunately, the flow is continually shattered by moralizing, primarily in the chapter epigraphs: most are lengthy quotations from real works implying ADHD is an imaginary diagnosis and Ritalin is snake oil, while several other chapters are, horrifyingly, preceded by genuine (though unattributed) tweets about ADHD medication.

This thriller is bogged down by polemic and poor character development . (Dystopian thriller. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-919-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history

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  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ

A teenage girl imprisoned in Auschwitz keeps the secret library of a forbidden school.

Dita Adlerova, 14, is confined in the notorious extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Compared to her fellow inmates, Dita’s relatively lucky. The several thousand residents of camp BIIb are inexplicably allowed to keep their own clothing, their hair, and, most importantly, their children. A young man named Fredy Hirsch maintains a school in BIIb, right under the noses of the Nazis. In Fredy’s classroom, Dita discovers something wonderful: a dangerous collection of eight smuggled books. The tale, based on the real life of Dita Polach Kraus and the events of 1944 and 1945, intertwines the stories of several real people: Dita, Fredy, several little-known war heroes, even a grim cameo from Anne and Margot Frank. Holocaust-knowledgeable readers will have suspicions about how many characters will die horribly (spoiler alert: this is Auschwitz). Yet somehow, myriad storylines told by multiple narrators offer compelling narrative tension. Why does BIIb exist? Will Rudi and Alice have a romance? What’s Fredy’s secret? Will Dr. Mengele subject Dita to his grotesque experiments? Dita’s matter-of-fact perspective, set in a slow build from BIIb to the chaotic starvation of the war’s end, both increases the horror and makes it bearable to read.

Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history . (Historical fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-618-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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