An interesting concept disappointingly executed.

HOWL

Virgil Knox, a gay 15-year-old, has recently moved with his father from bustling Seattle to the small town of Merritt, Florida, following his parents’ divorce.

New to town, Virgil attends a party at popular jock Finn’s house and, during the course of the evening, somehow finds himself out in the sprawl, a wooded swamp that most of the town avoids, being attacked by a monster. The monster leaves physical scars on Virgil’s body, but the mental and emotional scars are far more severe. Although even when they’re acknowledged, they’re treated as trivial by Virgil’s grandparents, his father does help him get into therapy. With support from theatrical classmate Tripp, his cousin Astrid, and popular student Jarrett and his entourage, Virgil sets out to prove that the monster exists...and that it’s closer to home than anyone might imagine. The story sets out with lofty ambitions, using the monster attack as a metaphor for sexual assault and the victim-blaming that, disgustingly, often happens afterward. The novel, however, falls short of those ambitions, creating a world of underdeveloped characters whose motivations and actions seem to exist only to further Virgil’s story. Astute readers will easily follow the trail of clues that lead to the denouement, leaving the mystery an anticlimax. Main characters read as White.

An interesting concept disappointingly executed. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7092-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

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THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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