An interesting premise with uneven execution.

MERCURY BOYS

An insecure teen girl becomes fascinated by daguerreotypes and time travel through dreams.

When everyone learns about her mom’s affair with a substitute teacher half her age, Saskia and her dad move from Arizona to Connecticut for a fresh start. Saskia is having trouble adjusting to her new reality and doesn’t feel like she fits in at school; she’s an outsider, mixed race, and not rich. A class assignment to study an early pioneer in photography and a subsequent visit to the university archive to see his original daguerreotype with new friend Lila results in an amazing discovery: Saskia can now visit the inventor in her dreams. In an effort to befriend the popular girls, Saskia shares her time travel secret and pressures Lila to help the rest of the group steal photos of their own, forming the Mercury Boys Club. Prasad explores power dynamics among teen girls through an interplay of various influences such as wealth, appearance, and race (Lila is Latinx, Saskia has a Black mom and White dad, and the other girls are White). Although the character development is not strong, depictions of the teens’ dysfunctional family lives are woven throughout the story, making the appeal of the club and the girls’ hysteria convincing. The speedy conclusion leaves a lot of unanswered questions, however, and readers will wonder what was actually true.

An interesting premise with uneven execution. (daguerreotype images) (Science fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64129-265-8

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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The personal and the political intertwine in this engaging series opener.

DEFY THE NIGHT

The only effective treatment for the lethal fever that plagues Kandala is a potion derived from the rare Moonflower.

Medicine is allocated to each sector of the kingdom by the decree of King Harristan, but the supply is limited. Thieves, smugglers, and black marketeers are subject to punishment and execution overseen by the cruel Prince Corrick in his role as the King’s Justice. Like many in Kandala, Tessa Cade loathes the king and his younger brother for ignoring the plight of those who cannot afford treatment. With the help of her close friend Weston, the 18-year-old apothecary’s assistant steals Moonflower petals from the wealthy and makes potions to distribute among the poor. Soon after Wes is caught by the night patrol, Tessa is presented with an opportunity to sneak into the palace. She enters with the intention of taking a sample of the palace’s potent Moonflower elixir only to be captured and brought before Prince Corrick, who, Tessa discovers, might not be as heartless as she originally believed. The slow-burn romance—between an idealist with straightforward moral beliefs and a pragmatist trapped by duty—will keep the pages turning, as will the scheming of the king’s consuls and the rebellion brewing in the background. Tessa and Corrick are cued White; other characters’ skin colors range from beige to deep brown.

The personal and the political intertwine in this engaging series opener. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0466-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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An inspirational read.

THE LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES

A true story of faith, love, and heroism.

Stefania “Fusia” Podgórska longed for nothing more than to leave the rural Polish farm she was born on for the city of Przemyśl where her older sisters lived. At the age of 12, she did just that, finding a job with the Diamants, a family of Jewish shopkeepers who welcomed her into their lives. For three years they lived peacefully until the Germans dropped bombs on Przemyśl. The family struggled on as the war and anti-Semitism ramped up, but eventually, the Diamants were forced into a ghetto. Then 17, Catholic Fusia was determined to help them survive, even at the risk of her own safety, while also caring for her 6-year-old sister, Helena, after their family was taken by the Nazis for forced labor. Knowing the risks involved, Fusia made a bold decision to harbor Jews. As the number of people she sheltered increased, so did her panic about being caught, but she was determined to do what was right. Cameron (The Knowing, 2017, etc.) used Stefania’s unpublished memoir as well as interviews with family members as source material. She deftly details Fusia’s brave actions and includes moving family photographs in the author’s note. Narrated in the first person, the story highlights essential events in Fusia’s life while maintaining a consistent pace. Readers will be pulled in by the compelling opening and stay for the emotional journey.

An inspirational read. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35593-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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