A fiercely hopeful exploration of loyalty, perception, and agency in the face of fear, misinformation, and violence.

FORGING SILVER INTO STARS

As Emberfall and Syhl Shallow prepare a Royal Challenge to promote unity between their countries, the vocally anti-magic Truthbringers conspire to turn public favor against King Grey.

Set four years after Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker trilogy, this timely, nuanced series opener introduces teen narrators Callyn, Jax, and Tycho, whose alternating perspectives navigate moral ambiguities and confront past and present traumas. Baker Callyn and blacksmith Jax have supported one another through many hardships: the accident that claimed one of Jax’s feet, the loss of Callyn’s parents, and the ongoing physical abuse Jax sustains from his father. Pushed to the point of desperation, Jax and Callyn accept a dangerous but well-paid job conveying potentially treasonous messages for the Truthbringers—but after a chance encounter with Tycho, the King’s Courier, the friends realize they’re in way over their heads. Notably, despite widespread distrust of magic, Tycho and others in Grey’s inner circle wear rings of Iishellasan steel that allow them to borrow his power, foreshadowing further revelations about how the magic functions. Tycho also faces scrutiny for his growing friendship with Jax and Callyn, and as the first Royal Challenge approaches, political and romantic intrigue abound. Both primary romances offer a masterclass in organic yet explicit depictions of consent, including a smoldering queer romance that’s profound in its treatment of intimacy with a sexual assault survivor. Major characters default to White.

A fiercely hopeful exploration of loyalty, perception, and agency in the face of fear, misinformation, and violence. (map, character list) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0912-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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