A historical fiction/fantasy mashup with crossover appeal.

THE KINGDOM OF BACK

The year clavier prodigy Maria Anna Mozart’s younger brother, Wolfgang Amadeus, begins to show an even more astonishing musical genius, a mysterious boy from a fairy land enters her life.

Lu (Rebel, 2019, etc.) interweaves 18th-century historical figures and events with a fantasy land called the Kingdom of Back, an alternate world actually invented and named by the real Mozart siblings, Nannerl and Woferl, where trees grow upside down and a prince and princess are missing. Hyacinth, a beautiful, shadowy boy, pale and blue-eyed, is the go-between who offers Nannerl figurative immortality in return for her help. As Nannerl craves her father’s attention and wishes to escape the inevitable anonymity that womanhood promises, she agrees. Over the next decade, she straddles both worlds, performing, composing, and navigating relationships with Woferl and her domineering father in one while battling supernatural foes for Hyacinth in the other. But as she grows, so do her doubts. Is Hyacinth the benevolent fairy he claims to be? Is success at her brother’s expense really what she wanted? Lu’s melding of history and fantasy is a clever idea, but the Kingdom of Back and its denizens feel like stock figures compiled from generic fairy tales in contrast to her portrayal of the real Mozarts’ lives, which is much more remarkable, emotional, and compelling than the fantasy land.

A historical fiction/fantasy mashup with crossover appeal. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3901-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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