A historical fiction/fantasy mashup with crossover appeal.

THE KINGDOM OF BACK

The year clavier prodigy Maria Anna Mozart’s younger brother, Wolfgang Amadeus, begins to show an even more astonishing musical genius, a mysterious boy from a fairy land enters her life.

Lu (Rebel, 2019, etc.) interweaves 18th-century historical figures and events with a fantasy land called the Kingdom of Back, an alternate world actually invented and named by the real Mozart siblings, Nannerl and Woferl, where trees grow upside down and a prince and princess are missing. Hyacinth, a beautiful, shadowy boy, pale and blue-eyed, is the go-between who offers Nannerl figurative immortality in return for her help. As Nannerl craves her father’s attention and wishes to escape the inevitable anonymity that womanhood promises, she agrees. Over the next decade, she straddles both worlds, performing, composing, and navigating relationships with Woferl and her domineering father in one while battling supernatural foes for Hyacinth in the other. But as she grows, so do her doubts. Is Hyacinth the benevolent fairy he claims to be? Is success at her brother’s expense really what she wanted? Lu’s melding of history and fantasy is a clever idea, but the Kingdom of Back and its denizens feel like stock figures compiled from generic fairy tales in contrast to her portrayal of the real Mozarts’ lives, which is much more remarkable, emotional, and compelling than the fantasy land.

A historical fiction/fantasy mashup with crossover appeal. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3901-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.

GRIS GRIMLY'S FRANKENSTEIN

A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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