A well-written story of transformation that’s both emotional and thought-provoking.


A boy undergoes a disturbing, identity-challenging metamorphosis in this debut YA SF novella.

In Meridian Colony, a minor off-Earth research base, Kesh Ugomi has never quite fit in. He’s a “loser freak”: an orphan passed around from family to family, a poor student burdened by food allergies no one else has. His classmates despise him—so much so that, as the story begins, two boys capture Kesh, transport him by hovercraft, and abandon him in the rainforest, shouting: “You can walk home, you disgusting parasite!” He’s discovered by sansiks, the huge, iridescent-shelled, insectlike, intelligent life native to the planet, who bring him to their hive and agree to help Kesh return home. At Meridian, the sansiks ask for a favor (bargained down to one box of fertilizer and a cart) in exchange for Kesh, but his ordeal is only just beginning. His body begins to transform in a way that becomes all the more horrifying when he learns the truth behind it and that he’s destined to be scientifically studied on Earth. With help from his sole friend, Aster Tiu, Kesh devises an escape from this fate to a community where he belongs and has a role to play. In her novella, Rasmussen makes the not uncommon story of a lonely, bullied young adolescent especially compelling because Kesh’s metamorphosis uncomfortably engages with and challenges the disgust most humans feel for insect life. What happens to Kesh isn’t pretty—but there is something beautiful in the sansiks’ care for and acceptance of him, even though his true nature could make him a pariah in the hive. They have a sense of fair play and generosity notably lacking in the colonists. The author also makes the alien world vivid through skillfully crisp sensory descriptions.

A well-written story of transformation that’s both emotional and thought-provoking.

Pub Date: June 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-952283-17-8

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2021

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.


A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic.


An Irish teen grapples with past misdeeds and newfound ties to magic.

When 16-year-old Maeve discovers a deck of tarot cards stashed with a mixtape of moody indie music from 1990, she starts giving readings for her classmates at her all-girls private school. Though her shame over dumping her strange friend Lily during an attempt to climb the social ladder at St. Bernadette’s is still palpable, it doesn’t stop her from trying to use the tarot in her favor to further this goal. However, after speaking harsh words to Lily during a reading, Maeve is horrified when her former friend later disappears. As she struggles to understand the forces at play within her, classmate Fiona proves to be just the friend Maeve needs. Detailed, interesting characters carry this contemporary story of competing energy and curses. Woven delicately throughout are chillingly eerie depictions of the Housekeeper, a figure who shows up on an extra card in the deck, echoing the White Lady legend from Irish folklore. Even more disturbing is an organization of young people led by a homophobic but charismatic figurehead intent on provoking backlash against Ireland’s recent civil rights victories. Most characters are White; Fiona is biracial, with a Filipina mother and White Irish father. Roe, Maeve’s love interest and Lily’s sibling, is a bisexual, genderqueer person who is a target for intolerance in their small city of Kilbeg.

An immersive tale of brave, vulnerable teens facing threats both real and fantastic. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1394-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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