A scathing work and an essential blueprint for youth battling climate change.

MANDALAY HAWK'S DILEMMA

THE UNITED STATES OF ANTHROPOCENE

Young teens face climate change head-on in Aronson’s middle-grade novel.

In 2030, when a Category 4 hurricane hits Maine, 13-year-old Mandalay Hawk is home alone; her father, Tom, is away, and the roads are closed. Water and wind batter the house, and Mandalay barely survives a roof collapse. Afterward, she’s fed up with adult complacency about extreme weather; to grab attention, she breaks into her high school, Nagatoon Regional, and steals 50 electronic “dweebs”—tabletlike devices donated by energy company Star Power—and sets them on fire in the parking lot. In lipstick, she writes on a chalkboard, “If we don’t stop global warming now, it will be too late. It will make the pandemic of 2020 look like a picnic in the park!!!” The action gets Mandalay expelled and placed in front of Judge Mary Baxter, who fines her $50,000 and sentences her to a year’s probation. She and Tom move to Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, where she befriends classmates Jazmin and Gute, the latter a dedicated reader who shuns personal electronic devices. As the trio grows closer, Mandalay reveals her past, and the teens start missing school to tour the city, which, in this era, is ravaged by floods. When their history teacher, Mr. Harkness, learns that the students are researching climate change and the United States’ past response to crises during their outings, he allows them to continue their jaunts. Eventually, Mandalay decides to hold an event at City Hall, and with her friends’ help, she starts KRAAP (Kids Revolt Against Adult Power) but remains unsure about the future.

Aronson’s impassioned novel could serve as a primer for a generation that sees climate change’s effects up-close in the coming years. The world he envisions is surreal, frightening, and, unfortunately, visible on our horizon today. His Manhattan, for example, is so hot that it can support palm trees, and it has canals to divert the rising Atlantic Ocean; fire has claimed the animals of the Bronx Zoo, and lower Broadway has “two feet of smelly, yucky, greenish water and no people.” Other problems include tent cities of climate refugees from uninhabitable states, such as Florida, and constantly hazy skies filled with wildfire toxins. People also carry “stink towels” because they never stop sweating. The book states its themes bluntly, as when Jazmin says, “As a species, we’re pathetic....We just let this happen. To satisfy the materialism of our civilization, more and more fossil fuel is still being burned.” Still, Aronson tries to insert humor in scenes involving the twin principals, Homer and Hubert Bushwick, who try to rein in Mandalay’s behavior. The narrative’s final third introduces some far-fetched elements involving U.S. President William “Bucky” Billingham, but they’re less important than the informative exposition for young readers: “Anthropocene is a term used to describe the current scientific—or geological—period in time...in which humans have impacted earth and climate in a negative way.” The finale is pure wish fulfillment, but anything less would be criminal.

A scathing work and an essential blueprint for youth battling climate change.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7320775-3-9

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Double M Books Inc.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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