A scathing work and an essential blueprint for youth battling climate change.

MANDALAY HAWK'S DILEMMA

THE UNITED STATES OF ANTHROPOCENE

Young teens face climate change head-on in Aronson’s middle-grade novel.

In 2030, when a Category 4 hurricane hits Maine, 13-year-old Mandalay Hawk is home alone; her father, Tom, is away, and the roads are closed. Water and wind batter the house, and Mandalay barely survives a roof collapse. Afterward, she’s fed up with adult complacency about extreme weather; to grab attention, she breaks into her high school, Nagatoon Regional, and steals 50 electronic “dweebs”—tabletlike devices donated by energy company Star Power—and sets them on fire in the parking lot. In lipstick, she writes on a chalkboard, “If we don’t stop global warming now, it will be too late. It will make the pandemic of 2020 look like a picnic in the park!!!” The action gets Mandalay expelled and placed in front of Judge Mary Baxter, who fines her $50,000 and sentences her to a year’s probation. She and Tom move to Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, where she befriends classmates Jazmin and Gute, the latter a dedicated reader who shuns personal electronic devices. As the trio grows closer, Mandalay reveals her past, and the teens start missing school to tour the city, which, in this era, is ravaged by floods. When their history teacher, Mr. Harkness, learns that the students are researching climate change and the United States’ past response to crises during their outings, he allows them to continue their jaunts. Eventually, Mandalay decides to hold an event at City Hall, and with her friends’ help, she starts KRAAP (Kids Revolt Against Adult Power) but remains unsure about the future.

Aronson’s impassioned novel could serve as a primer for a generation that sees climate change’s effects up-close in the coming years. The world he envisions is surreal, frightening, and, unfortunately, visible on our horizon today. His Manhattan, for example, is so hot that it can support palm trees, and it has canals to divert the rising Atlantic Ocean; fire has claimed the animals of the Bronx Zoo, and lower Broadway has “two feet of smelly, yucky, greenish water and no people.” Other problems include tent cities of climate refugees from uninhabitable states, such as Florida, and constantly hazy skies filled with wildfire toxins. People also carry “stink towels” because they never stop sweating. The book states its themes bluntly, as when Jazmin says, “As a species, we’re pathetic....We just let this happen. To satisfy the materialism of our civilization, more and more fossil fuel is still being burned.” Still, Aronson tries to insert humor in scenes involving the twin principals, Homer and Hubert Bushwick, who try to rein in Mandalay’s behavior. The narrative’s final third introduces some far-fetched elements involving U.S. President William “Bucky” Billingham, but they’re less important than the informative exposition for young readers: “Anthropocene is a term used to describe the current scientific—or geological—period in time...in which humans have impacted earth and climate in a negative way.” The finale is pure wish fulfillment, but anything less would be criminal.

A scathing work and an essential blueprint for youth battling climate change.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7320775-3-9

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Double M Books Inc.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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