THE SWEETEST SPELL

This sweet fairy tale takes readers to an imagined kingdom where there is no justice—and no chocolate, either.

Emmeline was born the lowest of the low in a semimedieval land. She’s a “dirt-scratcher” with a clubfoot, making her an outcast among outcasts. The dirt-scratchers grow the food for the kingdom, yet they themselves mostly starve, never allowed to leave the flatlands. But when a flood wipes them out, Emmeline drifts downriver to a middle-class area, where Owen Oak rescues her. Treated well there despite the prejudice, she learns that she and she alone has a magical ability to make delicious, rare, ultra-expensive chocolate. Once the secret gets out, danger strikes. Kidnapped, Emmeline tries to escape, while Owen tries to find her. When the dissolute, all-powerful king and queen gain control over her, Emmeline finds herself in even more serious trouble. As often occurs in traditional fairy tales, things get rough. People die; words are spoken with hatred; people are turned into slaves and required to fight to the death. The narrative moves along quickly, easily holding readers’ interest, and if the resolution relies on some deus ex machina elements, it also contains a clever twist. The story’s emphasis on freedom, or the lack thereof, and themes supporting equality stand out. With its attractive characters, especially dual narrators Emmeline and Owen, this novel has a power to charm.

Sweet indeed. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-2376-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A smart, timely outing.

RADIO SILENCE

Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).

Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class.

A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233571-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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