An underdeveloped but entertaining read.

RIVER MERMAID

This novel in verse charts an aspiring sculptor’s life-changing year.

The only child of a world-renowned sculptor mom and art dealer dad, 16-year-old Mercedes has already charted her own artistic future. But, unexpectedly denied admission to Wildwood Fine Arts School, her mom’s alma mater and Vancouver’s premier high school for the arts, Mercedes’ confidence evaporates. She abandons her artistic career dreams and ignores school art assignments. Her art teacher warns her she’s failing but believes that if Mercedes reengages with her art, she might have a chance of getting into Wildwood next year. Remaining conflicted about her career choices, Mercedes lets Sandra, her extravert BFF, talk her into pursuing her secret crush on her classmate Ellis. Despite an embarrassing start, romance ensues. At home, Mercedes’ fears about her workaholic parents (who both discount her mom’s worsening headaches) prove justified after her mom has a terrifying seizure. Struggling to get her artistic groove back, Mercedes turns to her mom for inspiration. Gracefully written, the novel goes just deep enough to illuminate the depths it frustratingly declines to explore, such as Mercedes’ fraught relationship with her (underwritten) father; her mother’s counterculture affinities; and above all, art itself. Beyond the fact that it’s her affluent family’s business, what motivates Mercedes to make art is a mystery. Most characters present White; Ellis is biracial (Japanese and implied White).

An underdeveloped but entertaining read. (Verse novel. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-989724-10-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crwth Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst.

DRY

When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration.

When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.

Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8196-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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