Equal parts fantasy, romance, and mystery, this book shimmers with an irresistible energy.

SUMMER OF SALT

On a small island called By-the-Sea, two young women discover their magical powers and resilience.

Seventeen-year-old white girl Georgina Fernweh and her twin sister, Mary, have one more summer at home helping their widowed mother, Penelope, at their family’s inn before they leave for college. Every year, bird enthusiasts flock to By-the-Sea for the arrival of Annabella’s Woodpecker, dubbed the world’s rarest bird and discovered and named by a distant Fernweh foremother about 300 years ago. Panic ensues when Annabella never appears, and the birders find her corpse in a barn, surrounded by her torn-up nest. The islanders superstitiously blame Mary, suspecting her of wielding magic, and Georgina promises Annabella that she will track down the murderer, even if it really is her sister. A tender, gentle romance between Georgina and Prue, visiting the island with her ornithologist brother (both are assumed white), accompanies the suspenseful murder mystery and is captured in lyrical prose. There is a clear distinction throughout between healthy relationships built on consent and harmful, uninvited attention. Along with romantic love, fierce bonds between family and friends play an important role in the story; Georgina’s aromantic, asexual best friend, Vira, stands by her side to the end, and Georgina’s mother supports her children by giving them the freedom to find their own ways into their magical gifts.

Equal parts fantasy, romance, and mystery, this book shimmers with an irresistible energy. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249362-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come.

THE WICKED KING

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 2

A heady blend of courtly double-crossing, Faerie lore, and toxic attraction swirls together in the sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018).

Five months after engineering a coup, human teen Jude is starting to feel the strain of secretly controlling King Cardan and running his Faerie kingdom. Jude’s self-loathing and anger at the traumatic events of her childhood (her Faerie “dad” killed her parents, and Faerie is not a particularly easy place even for the best-adjusted human) drive her ambition, which is tempered by her desire to make the world she loves and hates a little fairer. Much of the story revolves around plotting (the Queen of the Undersea wants the throne; Jude’s Faerie father wants power; Jude’s twin, Taryn, wants her Faerie betrothed by her side), but the underlying tension—sexual and political—between Jude and Cardan also takes some unexpected twists. Black’s writing is both contemporary and classic; her world is, at this point, intensely well-realized, so that some plot twists seem almost inevitable. Faerie is a strange place where immortal, multihued, multiformed denizens can’t lie but can twist everything; Jude—who can lie—is an outlier, and her first-person, present-tense narration reveals more than she would choose. With curly dark brown hair, Jude and Taryn are never identified by race in human terms.

A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come. (map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-31035-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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