COLD AS MARBLE

From the Light as a Feather series , Vol. 2

A lively and captivating teen paranormal ride.

High school students dabble in witchcraft in a race to break a deadly spell.

McKenna Brady is back from boarding school for winter break, having been expelled after unsuccessfully attempting to break Violet Simmons’ lethal curses. She now has just eight days to prevent Violet from killing her friend Mischa. Last fall, Violet predicted the deaths of their friends Olivia and Candace, with macabre details and accuracy during a game of Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. Now Violet is giving tarot card readings in school, and McKenna believes her predictions are connected to the lunar calendar. Aarsen quickly picks up where Light as a Feather (2018) leaves off, with improved results: The story is gripping and fast-paced, with sharper dialogue and plenty of hair-raising spookiness mixed with high school tomfoolery. Readers will devour the juicy occult particulars as McKenna discovers that she is a medium and teams up with friends to use a divination pendulum, phases of the moon, and other Wiccan magick to try to stop Violet. There’s much to enjoy here, but the main premise, that McKenna and her friends must somehow force Violet to lie down and play Light as a Feather, Cold as Marble to break the spell, is flimsy enough that one hopes Aarsen uses her growing talents on new material. Most characters are assumed white.

A lively and captivating teen paranormal ride. (Horror. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4431-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

OUT OF CHARACTER

Despite the well-meaning warmth, a wearying plod.

Can a 17-year-old with her first girlfriend prevent real-life folks from discovering her online fandoms?

Cass is proudly queer, happily fat, and extremely secretive about being a fan who role-plays on Discord. Back in middle school, she had what she calls a gaming addiction, playing “The Sims” so much her parents had to take the game away. Now, turning to her role-play friends to cope with her fighting parents, she worries that people will judge her for her fannishness and online life. To be fair, her grades are suffering. And sure, maybe she’s missed a college application deadline. Also, her mom has suddenly left Minneapolis and moved to Maine to be with a man she met online. But on the other hand, Cass is finally dating her amazingly cute longtime crush, Taylor. Pansexual Taylor is a gamer, a little bit punk, White like Cass, and so, so great—but she still can’t help comparing her to Rowan, Cass’ online best friend and role-playing ship partner. But Rowan doesn’t want to be a dirty little secret and doesn’t see why Cass can’t be honest about this part of her life. The inevitable train wreck of her lies looms on the horizon for months in an overlong morality play building to the climax that includes tidy resolutions to all the character arcs that are quite heartwarming but, in the case of Cass’ estranged mother, narratively unearned.

Despite the well-meaning warmth, a wearying plod. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-324332-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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