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*Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City* by Kirsten Miller - tweens/young adult book review

Also by Kirsten Miller:

Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
by Kirsten Miller
Grades 6-9 250 pages Harcourt May 2006 Hardcover    

Despite her academic parents, her private school education, her family scholarship, and even her name, Ananka Fishbein is a very normal, very bored twelve-year-old girl growing up in New York City. Thatís until she sees the ground outside her house crack, and she follows a strange gray monster into the world of Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City.

Itís sadly disappointing that there is no actual grey monster. Instead, thereís Kiki Strike herself, an underweight, anemic martial artist with a Mysterious Past, a crew of other girls with equally peculiar specialties, an underground city, and a lot of rats - who are gray, but otherwise somewhat normal. Into this already crowded scene, mix some stolen jewels, an FBI agent, the U.S. patent office, kidnappers, Chinese slave traders, and the entire nosy student body of Anankaís not-so-private school. Thereís an awful lot going on, and trying to figure out exactly what those goings-on are will keep readers of any age turning the pages long past the time when they ought to be in bed. At 400 pages long, it feels too short.

But while Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City is certainly riveting, itís disappointingly unsatisfying. The problem is never the plot, which accomplishes more than should be possible at twice its length. The problem instead is heart, which neither Ananka nor Kiki seem to have in any great measure. Kiki serves as a great mystery throughout most of the story, so some loss of sympathy is inevitable, though even when she begins to be revealed she seems too controlled for belief. Ananka, though, comes across as both hideously smug in her bits of advice to the reader and terminally dense. She brags about her own curiosity and daring, then clams up out of fear or fails to think of the most obvious questions in order to keep mysteries going.

The other members of Kikiís team are much more sympathetic, even in small doses, and itís possible Ananka will be too, seen through other eyes. It seems certain Kiki Strike is destined for a long life and many more adventures.

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  Sarah Meador/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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