For real super-villain fun, skip this and go back to Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius (2007) and sequels.


From the Vindico series , Vol. 1

Four teens and one preteen of disparate backgrounds find themselves forcibly recruited into a league of super-villains in this pallid series opener.

They are plucked from lives that range from fairly unsatisfying to downright unpleasant and taken to the secret headquarters of the League of Heroes’ sworn enemies, the Vindico. There, the super-villains use a variety of predictable tactics (humiliation, terror, the promise of power) to mold the unlikely kids into protégés. Though each kid has a separate potential superpower, they bond enough, given the bizarre circumstances, to work together against their mentors when one of them is threatened. What could be an enjoyable comic-book romp is fatally hamstrung by the author's regrettable tendency to tell, not show. The third-person narration shifts perspective from kid to kid and occasionally to the villains, a tactic that should develop distinct characters but here does not. With a couple of notable exceptions (a sarcastic-but-charismatic older boy virtually abandoned by his mother and a computer-genius girl reared in an unloving home), the kids’ back stories are largely uncompelling. Giving readers access to the thoughts and plots of the super-villains serves to leach rather than build tension, and a credibility-straining series of double-crosses causes the climax to drag rather than thrill. Finally, the super-villains’ motive for villainy underwhelms, resulting in huge suspension-of-disbelief problems.

For real super-villain fun, skip this and go back to Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius (2007) and sequels. (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25654-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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