A keenly crafted thriller.

TIME BOMB

When a suburban high school is devastated by a bombing, a diverse group of teens gathers to find a way out.

Minor connections pre-exist among the group: biracial (black/white) Tad is on the football team with the popular Frankie, a white boy, and the pair may be a little more than just friends. Latino Z has been pegged as the class ne’er-do-well; Palestinian-American Rashid, an observant Muslim, feels extra conspicuous now that his beard has started growing. Of course, everyone knows the white daughter of a U.S. senator, the perfectly popular Diana. The wildcard is olive-skinned Cassandra, the new kid in school. When word reaches the gang that the bomber may still be inside the building, tensions rise and the small bonds just being forged threaten to disintegrate. The third-person perspective shifts chapter to chapter, letting readers into each of the character’s heads. Some of the characters are fuller than others (Z is frustratingly thin), but through their eyes the author lays out the geography of the school before the bombing and smartly paces the aftermath. Charbonneau makes the bold move of letting readers—though not all the characters—know who the bomber is right away. This pivots the suspense from a whodunit to a survival tale, and the author effectively charts the action, taking time to allow the kids to discuss current events and the perils of false assumptions.

A keenly crafted thriller. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-41670-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Will both entertain and encourage reflection.

CINDERELLA IS DEAD

In Mersailles, “Cinderella” is more than just a fairy tale: It’s the basis for a harsh monarch’s throttlehold on his kingdom.

Sophia is turning 16, the age at which young women must attend King Manford’s annual ball, at which they are scrutinized by and married off to male attendees. Any young woman who has not been claimed after her third ball is destined to spend the rest of her days engaged in hard labor. But being chosen can be its own curse in a society where domestic violence is common. Sophia is a beautiful Black girl in love with dark-haired Erin, one of her best friends. While racial diversity is a natural part of this world, the same acceptance does not exist for those who defy rigid gender norms: Anything other than heterosexual desire is strictly forbidden, and while Sophia wishes to escape as a couple, Erin is too fearful. After fleeing the ball, Sophia stumbles across Cinderella’s mausoleum, hidden in the woods. There she meets rebellious Constance, an attractive young red-haired woman with a very personal motivation for sabotaging the monarchy. As the two grew closer—and sparks fly—they discover secrets that could end Manford’s cruel reign. This promising debut deals with themes around rebellion and empowerment as well as the toll that rejecting the status quo can take on relationships. The atmospheric setting is a particular strength, and the twists and turns will keep readers in suspense.

Will both entertain and encourage reflection. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0387-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

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Inspiring and heartwarming.

MOST LIKELY

From the Most Likely series , Vol. 1

The future is female: Her name is President Diffenderfer.

Best friends since kindergarten, Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha tackle their senior year with great aplomb in Watson’s debut. When their senior rite of passage, carving one’s name into the jungle gym at a local park, is threatened by a city council that wants to demolish the park, the girls rally to save the place where they became friends. This is far from their only problem: Though each is talented, they struggle this year with emotional, academic, social, and financial issues. Latinx artist Ava, who lives with depression, desires to find her birth mother and attend art school against her mother’s wishes; white cross-country athlete CJ, who is self-conscious about her body, can’t crack the SATs, so she strengthens her college application by volunteering with disabled children; biracial (black/white) student journalist Jordan lies about her age to interview a handsome councilman’s aide, and a mutual crush develops; STEM-focused white lesbian Martha, named for her ancestor Martha Washington, worries that her family can’t afford MIT. Over the course of the year, the friends weather obstacles and realize the power of their friendship. Their relationship prepares one of the girls to become president of the United States, and the twist ending will come as a surprise. The characters are superbly drawn; portrayed as whole people, the various elements of their identities are not the entirety of who they are.

Inspiring and heartwarming. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45483-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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