A pleasurable read despite some inconsistencies.

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IRON WIDOW

An individual vendetta fuels a systemic challenge in a war-torn world.

In Huaxia, a Chinese-influenced futuristic society, humankind is in a constant war with the Hunduns. These giant buglike aliens fly and attack with frightening power. In response, humans have built Chrysalises, war machines that take the shape of mythical animals and are powered by the qi of two pilots, one bringing the female yin force and the other the male yang. The female concubine-pilot typically dies in the battle, having been entirely drained of her qi. This sacrificial attitude toward females results in the death of narrator Zetian’s older sister. Bent on revenge, Zetian, a frontier girl who chafes at the idea of rigid gender roles and imagines the freedom of “giving onlookers no easy way to bind me with a simple label,” voluntarily becomes a concubine-pilot. She proclaims herself the nightmare these careless, selfishly ambitious boy pilots deserve to face. When she is paired with Li Shimin, a pilot and murderer with powerful qi, she must be strategic to survive the war and take down the patriarchy. Things become complicated when her forbidden love interest, wealthy, protective Yizhi, gets involved. The action-packed plot, involving battles both physical and mental, is original and incorporates queer themes and Zetian’s unwavering, cathartic feminism. However, lapses in worldbuilding and characters’ relationships result in some events feeling random and forced. The epilogue promises a sequel.

A pleasurable read despite some inconsistencies. (content note) (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6993-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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