This urban Alice in Wonderland combines excitement and reflection to take readers on a colorfully wild ride through an...

MAX & CHARLIE

In this graphic novel, a boy searches a surreal New York City for his lost dog, learning much about the world and himself.

Charlie, an imaginative youngster, enjoys spinning fantasies with his best buddy, Max the beagle, who plays “Sgt. Slobberface” to Charlie’s “Skyfighter 3030” in adventures reminiscent of Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff daydreams in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. One day, the two go out for a walk, and Max pulls at the leash to sniff and explore things. Charlie unfastens the dog’s lead when the two lie down for a nap in the park, but when the boy falls asleep, a passing cat with glowing aqua eyes galvanizes Max into a headlong chase. Charlie—his brown hair now also a shade of aqua, a subtle signal that readers are in dream time—runs behind, following Max out of the park, down to the subway, onto a car, and through New York City. Charlie has a series of often frightening Alice in Wonderland-style encounters with urban figures—subway riders, transit cops, street corner philosophers, skeletal socialites, a bike messenger—who all share their own worldviews. Charlie escapes from sticky situations, gets help from kind people, rescues Max from mean punks, and finds himself in a nightmarish amusement park. A recurring figure, an elderly African-American man, helps Charlie understand that “you alone control you, your energy. Your happiness and sadness…your fright, excitement.” Charlie (again with brown hair) wakes up with Max from their nap in the still-sunny park, and they play a joyous game of Frisbee. Debut author Lieberman, a filmmaker and media producer, brings cinematic energy to this dynamic, always-unfolding story, with good dialogue that captures a variety of speech. Debut illustrator Neubert’s illustrations, lavishly produced in full color on glossy paper, contribute greatly to the characterization and the storytelling, especially in the book’s wordless, more fantastic sections. In some ways, though, the book could use more surreality and nonsense, instead of explicitly teaching lessons, which may not appeal to young readers. Also, the presence of a magical African-American character who helps the white protagonist comes off as something of a cliché.

This urban Alice in Wonderland combines excitement and reflection to take readers on a colorfully wild ride through an archetypal New York.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Exit Strategy, New Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

WATCH OVER ME

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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