A resonant blend of teen drama and SF adventure.

THE TIME TRIALS

In this YA novel, four disparate schoolmates must team up to survive a deadly contest involving time traveling.

A few years have passed since Finn Mallory lost his parents to a car accident. Now 16 years old, Finn is on full scholarship at an elite boarding school. Most of his fellow students look down on him. One exception is the school’s social queen, Everly Caldwell, who is also an orphan. Unfortunately, Finn mistakes her friendliness for ridicule and rebuffs her overtures—a self-sabotage that recurs throughout the story. Finn and Everly are soon thrown together as part of the school’s Young Historians Club, an extracurricular group run by the girl’s grandfather. There are only two other members: confident go-getter Valerie Konrad and Finn’s high-functioning autistic roommate, Edison Pellegrin. Together, the Young Historians will compete in the Time Trials—a secretive contest that sees teams from four schools travel back in time and interact with history. The past itself cannot be changed, yet the trials are not without risk to the participants. Injury is entirely possible—even death. Can Finn come to terms with his own inner demons, or will the trials be his undoing? The McConnells, a husband-and-wife team, structure an engaging, third-person narrative, primarily from Finn’s point of view but occasionally moving to that of one of the other protagonists. The prose is polished and the dialogue unobtrusive, allowing the characters to stand out. The authors present an unusual take on time travel and causality. The trials’ organizers (the voyeuristic, coldhearted timekeepers) offer plenty of intrigue along with steampunk vibes, while the central tenet—that history is inviolable save for how it affects the individual—is a master stroke, especially when combined with issues of teenage trauma and self-esteem. In bringing these themes to light, grunge guitar–playing Finn is a natural viewpoint character. At times, he fluctuates too wildly and quickly toward self-defeatism, but this is representative of a more general heightening of character traits. (The exaggeration is more evident in some players than others.) Though well executed thematically, the book’s ending is too abrupt. Nonetheless, adolescent readers will love the journey and thrill at the prospect of a sequel.

A resonant blend of teen drama and SF adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-946501-69-1

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Tiny Fox Press LLC

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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