It’s fine in pace and flow but disintegrates under scrutiny.

THE EXO PROJECT

Can humans settle another planet before it’s too late?

Earth is slowly dying. To fund cancer treatment for his mother, currently in cryogenic stasis, 17-year-old Matthew volunteers to be cryogenically frozen and sent 100 light-years away to one of thousands of potentially habitable planets. There’s no return—he’ll message Earth the results, and if the planet’s unviable, he’ll take a suicide pill. On Gle’ah, Matthew’s destination planet, 17-year-old Kiva leads a pre-industrial, matriarchal society. Debut novelist DeYoung crams in multitudes of plot points—cross-universe, destined romance, politics and violence on Gle’ah, weapons of mass destruction, telepathy, magical healing, drugs, and a mass shooting. A multiperspective narrative approach gives readers broad information but contains only mild characterization; main characters, especially Matthew, read like place holders. Dunne, a middle-aged black woman on Matthew’s team, specializes in particle physics and medicine but goes largely unconsulted regarding the plot’s pivotal decision; instead, white teen Matthew makes the core decision alone. Kiva’s people are “exactly like humans in every way” except for their gray skin, resulting in a culture of not-quite-white people without characters of color. The scientific/religious explanations for phenomena on Gle’ah will remind readers of Star Wars’ midi-chlorians—and not in a good way. See Beth Revis’ Across the Universe (2011) for cryogenics and Phoebe North’s Starglass (2013) for romance destined across the stars.

It’s fine in pace and flow but disintegrates under scrutiny. (Science fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62979-610-9

Page Count: 455

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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Though it’s a bit of a slog, readers of Book 1 will find it worth the time for its unexpected conclusion

THE SHADOW'S CURSE

A lost prince and his ladylove must defeat the tyrant rampaging over the steppes with an army of enslaved spirits in this sequel to The Oathbreaker’s Shadow (2015).

Raim is haunted by the spirit of his best friend, Khareh—a spirit that appeared when Raim accidentally broke an oath made by another, leaving him magically marked and exiled from his nomadic tribe as an oathbreaker. Khareh yet lives, but with the best part of himself lost in the spirit, his ambition has become megalomania. Not content to be khan of his tribe alone, Khareh aims to join all the northern nomads into one massive khanate. Raim seeks control over his spirit but also yearns to rescue Wadi, the dark-skinned desert girl to whom he's given his heart. Wadi is Khareh's captive, and she is more than capable of freeing herself from the cruel young khan; nevertheless she must stay a captive. It's her destiny to make a king of Raim, she learns from a blind seer in one of the stalest tropes of superpowered disability. Raim, Khareh, and Wadi travel all over the steppes of Darhan, giving a solid glimpse of this fantasy world roughly based on the lives of Mongolian nomads. A dense narrative of tiny chapters with shifting points of view leaves little time to become invested in each character's journey.

Though it’s a bit of a slog, readers of Book 1 will find it worth the time for its unexpected conclusion . (Fantasy. 13-15)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7387-4512-1

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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