A lively and captivating teen paranormal ride.

COLD AS MARBLE

From the Light as a Feather series , Vol. 2

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 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

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. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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In the end, it’s more liberating than oppressive, with bits of humor and a jubilant pageant takeover by beauty rebels to...

DUMPLIN'

From the Dumplin' series , Vol. 1

In a small Texas town, a confident fat girl confronts new challenges to her self-esteem.

At age 16, Willowdean—her mother calls her Dumplin’—has a good sense of herself. She’s uninterested in Mom’s raison d’être, the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, which annually takes over the town and Will’s own house. Mom won once and now runs the pageant, dieting to fit her old dress and pressuring Will to diet too. Will doesn’t. She mourns her beloved aunt Lucy, a second parent to her who died six months ago, and simmers with pleasure over a new, hot, sort-of-boyfriend. However, his touch makes Will panic with newfound insecurity. She loses him, loses her old best friend, gains new social-outsider buddies (a familiar trope)—and finds triumph somewhere amid Dolly Parton, drag queens, breaking pageant rules, and repairing relationships. The text refreshingly asserts that thinness is no requirement for doing and deserving good things, that weight loss isn’t a cure-all, and that dieting doesn’t work anyway. The plot arc, amazingly, avoids the all-too-common pitfall of having its fat protagonist lose weight. Unfortunately, Murphy loses her step and undermines her main point in the mournful, cringeworthy details of Lucy’s death and life, which are blamed on extreme fatness rather than unfairness.

In the end, it’s more liberating than oppressive, with bits of humor and a jubilant pageant takeover by beauty rebels to crown this unusual book about a fat character. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-232718-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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