Readers will laugh, possibly uneasily, at Jack’s reckless antics and lack of impulse control, but they will probably also...

THE TROUBLE IN ME

A misbegotten effort to reinvent himself leads young “Jack” to burn his notebooks and clothes, though not quite his bridges, in Gantos’ latest burst of confessional fiction.

This summer episode falls in chronology shortly after Jack’s Black Book (1997). Dissatisfied with his life and looking for a new model, 14-year-old Jack fixes with characteristic lack of good judgment on next-door-neighbor Gary Pagoda—a leather-jacketed older teen fresh out of juvie. Gary turns out to be a dab hand not only at testing his new amanuensis with life-threatening backyard games, but also hot-wiring cars and other thrillingly illegal amusements. Reflected in both jacket cover and chapter titles, fire or fireworks play a recurring role in events as Jack tries to make a clean break with his past by torching both his childhood journals and his clothes (replacing the latter with shoplifted goods). Jack’s narrative has a Wimpy Kid tone and appeal as, looking back, he’s well-aware of his own youthful fecklessness and almost eager to point out where he went wrong. But, not very surprisingly for readers who have been following his checkered career, he turns out to be a miserable failure at real evil.

Readers will laugh, possibly uneasily, at Jack’s reckless antics and lack of impulse control, but they will probably also sympathize with his deep itch to make a change. (preface, afterword) (Historical fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-37995-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded.

ANGEL THIEVES

A Texas bayou holds memories and secrets, weaving together people and animals through connected histories.

Buffalo Bayou takes her place as part of an ensemble cast that spans nearly two centuries. Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is a white boy who works alongside his father stealing angel statues from cemeteries for an antiques dealer, and Soleil Broussard is a 16-year-old Creole Christian with a tiny honey bear jar tattooed on her wrist. The two attend school together in present-day Houston, Texas, but the story intertwines their connection with stories of slaves and an ocelot in a narrative that runs away like the rushing of a river. Texas is a gorgeous backdrop for the story, eliciting haunting imagery that spotlights the natural beauty of the state. Each character helps piece together a quilt of experiences that stream from the omnipresent bayou who sees, hears, and protects, and the revelations of their overlapping connections are well-paced throughout. The novel is less successful, however, at underscoring why there are so many voices battling for space in the text. Too-short vignettes that are rather haphazardly forced together provide glimpses into the lives of the characters but make it difficult to follow all of the threads. While an author’s note offers historical background explaining the inspiration for the characters, it does not provide sufficient cohesion.

Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2109-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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