3, 2, 1…blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping.

THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US

A privileged socialite and orphaned cadet unpack the true intention of their two-person mission to one of Saturn’s moons.

Ambrose Cusk of Fédération (think United States circa 2470) is the elegant, golden offspring of Alexander the Great’s DNA and an emotionally distant mother. Kodiak Celius of Dimokratía (think Russia) is a brawny orphan-turned-cadet. The two 17-year-olds are paired on a mission to find Ambrose’s long-lost sister, Minerva, who disappeared while attempting to colonize Titan. Her distress beacon has mysteriously been activated years later. The socially, physically, and emotionally opposite boys are slowly unified by their need to understand their fuzzy, pre-mission memories; to combat an omnipresent, self-serving OS (remember HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey?); and to get to the bottom of why there’s a vacuum-sealed supply of their own cloned bodies hidden on the ship. This Groundhog Day–type loop features complex worldbuilding in terms of space, time, light, and sound. What’s not complex are base human wants and needs like manicotti, making out, and memories. Ambrose and Kodiak realize that mutual affection is a way to validate one’s existence; that human connection is essential even if you’re determined to be a loner; and that even with the same memories and experiences, our choices in love and life can be completely, wonderfully different if we have a chance to do them again. And again. And again. Main characters are implied White.

3, 2, 1…blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288828-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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