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Editorial Reviews for Undaunted

Kirkus Review, January 15th, 2019    It’s been six months since 17-year-old Lane McEvoy returned to the safety of the West from the dark chaos of the Feral Zone. Now, Lane must return to the land of her nightmares with her father, who has been hired to fetch blood samples from those infected with the Ferae virus so scientists can complete development of a vaccine. The 50 types of virus strains cause sufferers to mutate into lions, apes, a Komodo dragon, and other animal forms. When Lane arrives in the East, she discovers no one has seen broody heartthrob Rafe, who was infected just before Lane returned home. She’ll ally herself with old friend Everson and a group of fierce lion-women in order to track him down. And when she finds him, Lane might have to carry through on her promise to end his life if he’s gone feral. There’s a lot going on in terms of events and character development but Falls makes it work. The action unfolds evenly and swiftly: Rafe’s and Everson’s respective histories are revealed, and narrator/protagonist Lane remains strong and steady even as she struggles with the PTSD resulting from her previous time in the zone. A conclusion worth waiting for. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)

Editorial Reviews for Inhuman

Kirkus, Starred Review, August 14, 2013  Falls’ first novel for teens is the nail-biting start of a new trilogy. Nineteen years ago, the deadly Ferae Naturae (“of a wild nature”) virus killed 40 percent of America’s population. Now, 16 year-old Lane McEvoy lives a safe, sterile life in the shadow of the Titan, a 700-foot-tall wall that extends from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, separating the uninfected west from the Feral Zone to the east. Lane’s life is turned upside down when the head of Biohazard Defense makes her an offer she can’t afford to refuse. Director Spurling has evidence that Lane’s father, Mack, is a “fetch,” paid to retrieve valuables left behind during the exodus two decades before. Unless Lane locates her father so he can recover something the director has lost, Spurling will expose Mack’s treason, and Lane will lose him to execution by firing squad. As she ventures into the Feral Zone, Lane picks up two unlikely allies: the enigmatic feral-hunter Rafe and the militant, by-the-book guard Everson. Readers will find themselves drawn into Lane’s story through the author’s consistent worldbuilding and striking turns of phrase. Lane is an appealing and credible protagonist; her progression from obsessive cleanliness to fearless engagement with the infected is subtle and believable. Sure to satisfy fans of the dystopian-romance genre and to gather new ones along the way.

Publishers Weekly, August 19, 2013 Falls begins a trilogy set in a dystopian America, a generation after a hybridized virus killed or mutated millions. Survivors live west of the Mississippi, with a giant wall protecting them from the “Feral Zone” to the east. When 16-year-old Lane McEvoy’s father goes missing, she learns that he was a “fetch,” illegally journeying east to retrieve precious artwork and other items. A powerful official blackmails Lane into helping find her father; when she’s unsuccessful, she must complete his assignment herself. Accompanied by rule-breaking bad boy Rafe and handsome border guard Everson, Lane ventures into the Feral Zone, trying to survive the legacy of the Ferae Naturae virus, including animal crossbreeds and feral “manimals.” Despite the obligatory love triangle, Falls presents Lane as a competent, admirable heroine who more than holds her own. The setting holds great promise, and its dangers are quite entertaining: from the dreaded chimpacabra and piranha-bats to people infected by lion, tiger, or fox DNA, there’s lovely and bizarre imagery involved. A solid start, even when the book falls into familiar patterns for the genre.  Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary.

School Library Journal, November 1, 2013 Gr 8 Up—Years ago, genetic experimentation gone wrong unleashed the Ferae virus, which killed millions and mutated more into half-human, half-animal hybrids. Humanity fled west and built a wall along the Mississippi River. Sixteen-year-old Lane McEvoy has grown up in the West, but she’s just found out that her father, who she thought was an art dealer, is actually a fetch, someone who illegally crosses the quarantine line to retrieve items from the East. She’s blackmailed into breaching the wall and convincing him to do a job for a powerful government official, but when she can’t locate him, she must perform the fetch herself with help from mysterious border guard Everson and infuriating mercenary Rafe. This first installation in a trilogy is well imagined, set in an original world whose convincing history, politics, and social norms come out naturally as the story unfolds. The animal hybrids are sometimes intriguing and sometimes terrifying (like the half-bat half-piranha weevlings) but are always compelling. While the love triangle is perhaps inevitable, Lane, Everson, and Rafe are believable, and new facets of their personalities are revealed over their journey. Although ethics in Lane’s universe are, at first, clearly delineated, as she sees more of the world past the wall, her sense of what makes people human-and humane-evolves. This is a perfectly plotted, deliciously suspenseful journey through a lush, intriguing society in which nothing is quite as it seems.—Gretchen Kolderup, New York Public Library

VOYA magazine, Voice Of  Youth Advocates An amusement park attraction gone wrong gives way to a devastating virus that turns humans into feral “manimals.” Delaney, Lane for short, has heard similar stories from her dad in the form of fairytales, but these “manimals” are not the cute and cuddly kind. Lane is safe as long as she stays confined behind the feral zone. Then, she finds out her dad is out there. He is a “fetch,” a person who enters the zone to obtain priceless items, punishable by death. But Lane’s dad is wanted for one last fetch that may save his life. On her quest to help him, Lane meets two boys; a soldier on a mission to find a cure, and an unruly boy who grew up in the zone and seems to know more about her and her dad than he lets on—and both boys are adorable. Who has time for romance, though, when you are fighting off cross-bred, rabid humans trying to infect you, all while living out your bedtime stories? Lane intends to risk her life to find out. This novel is reminiscent of H.G. Wells’s The Island Of Dr. Moreau with a hint of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. The inhuman world that author Falls has shaped is both disturbing and fascinating. Falls’s creatures are frighteningly beautiful as are the traits that distinguish them from human and animal, a very small distinction at times. This is recommended for readers looking for a thrilling, page-turning read. Reviewer: Tanya Paglia

Editorial Reviews for Dark Life

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 2010  It’s not “Go West, young man,” but “Go Deep,” in this action-packed aquatic adventure by newcomer Falls. Years after climate changes have devastated the Earth’s surface, the new frontier is underwater, where rugged individualists have carved out lives on the ocean floor. “The Topsiders clung to the chunks of oversea land that were still left, and they didn’t understand why we weren’t clinging, too,” says 15-year-old narrator Ty, part of the first generation born and bred in the so-called Dark Life. When he meets Gemma, a Topsider girl searching for her lost brother among the prospectors and toughs of the region, Ty feels obligated to protect her, especially when they run afoul of the Seablite Gang, pirates who’ve been preying on local settlers. In their struggle for survival, Ty and Gemma learn the fate of her brother and uncover long-hidden secrets regarding the Deep Life. Though the science and future history are only lightly explored, there’s no denying the nifty premise, solid characterization, and tense moments that contribute to a cinematic reading experience. Falls’s undersea world warrants further exploration. Ages 9–12.

Kirkus, April 1, 2010  The worldbuilding of countless eco-thrillers serves here as the setting for a classic Western. A Western, that is, with plankton instead of cows, harpoons instead of six-shooters and submarines instead of covered wagons. Ty lives below the ocean, in a future in which water levels have risen and Topsiders live cramped together in unbearable conditions. Undersea, any brave settler can stake a claim and build a huge homestead. Ty was born down here, and he loves it. When he encounters freckle-faced Topsider orphan Gemma, he revels in showing her his world, from inflatable houses shaped like jellyfish to beautiful schools of swordfish. If only they weren’t in danger from the villainous Seablite gang that keeps attacking homesteads! This caper features a slew of Western standards—the crabby old doctor, the saloon filled with bandanna-clad thugs, the posse of furious citizens—and a few plot twists keep the tension high. A thrilling conversion of the classics to one of our newer frontiers. (Science fiction. 10-12) 

School Library Journal  In this futuristic coming-of-age tale, 15-year-old Ty has spent his whole life in a deep-sea colony on the ocean floor. His family and the other pioneers provide fish and other food for the Commonwealth citizens who live aboveground in stacked cities following earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed much of the Earth. The pioneers chafe under the harsh rule of the Commonwealth, a situation made worse when those who live subsea are charged with capturing a gang of pirates that has been terrorizing Commonwealth ships and pioneer homesteads. Ty is swept up in the hunt for the bandits when Gemma, a “Topsider” orphan, comes to his community to search for her missing brother, who may have ties to the pirates. First-time author Falls has created a riveting adventure story that action fans and reluctant readers will enjoy for its fast pace. Teens will like the budding romance between Ty and Gemma and the marvelous, imaginative depictions of life on the ocean floor. Minor characters, such as Ty’s neighbors and younger sister, are fully fleshed out in their few short scenes. Although the identity of Gemma’s brother and the subplot regarding his past with the pioneers’ doctor are hastily explained and not completely satisfying, this is a small point that doesn’t detract from the creative setting, adventurous plot, and likable teen heroes. Readers will cheer Ty on in his pursuit of the pirates and clamor for more tales of undersea life. Grade 6–10

Booklist  Sixteen-year-old Ty, first child born to the pioneers who live in the depths of the ocean, has little patience for topsiders (land dwellers) until he meets feisty Gemma, who immediately enlists his help to locate her missing older brother. Their search is interrupted by pirate attacks of the notorious Seablite Gang and an ultimatum from the Commonwealth Government (located topside) that makes the pioneers responsible for stopping the raids. Ty and Gemma uncover connections between the pirates, illicit medical experiments, and Gemma’s missing sibling, who happens to have secret supernatural gifts—like Ty. Although set in an undersea future, this rousing adventure has all the hallmarks of a western, including outlaws, homesteaders, and plenty of shoot-’em-up action (only with harpoonlike weapons). Good guys and bad guys are fairly obvious, as is the outcome, but the exotic setting and well-conceived details about undersea living, along with likable characters and a minor surprise at the end, will keep readers turning the pages. Grades 6-9.

Editorial Reviews for Rip Tide

Publisher’s Weekly, June 2011  A gruesome discovery marks the start of another perilous adventure for underwater colonist Ty and his surface ally Gemma in this sequel to Dark Life, film rights for which have been picked up by Disney. While preparing to sell the season’s seaweed crop, Ty stumbles across an abandoned township, its doors chained shut and its residents murdered. Soon after, the colonists’ deal with another township goes bad, and Ty’s parents are kidnapped. As Ty and Gemma try to track down those responsible and save their loved ones, they’re forced to join up with the notorious Seablite Gang, infiltrate the rough-and-tumble town of Rip Tide, fight for their lives against sea monsters and human predators, and discover who’s killing entire townships–and why. As with its predecessor, there’s no shortage of action, intrigue, or daring exploits in this aquatic thriller. Atmospheric and tense, built around an expertly used postapocalyptic–meets–Wild West setting, this story’s a whole lot of fun and won’t disappoint fans of the first book. Ages 9–12.

School Library Journal  In this futuristic follow-up to Dark Life (Scholastic, 2010), 15-year-old Ty Townson and his friend Gemma, a homeless orphan who used to live in an above-water trade station, discover a submerged township filled with bodies in a trash vortex. Later, when Ty’s parents go missing, the duo sets out to find them, fearing they’ll meet a similar fate. The first child born of settlers in a postapocalyptic, land-scarce world, Ty possesses a dark gift enabling him to “shine” and generate biosonar pulses used to his advantage in dangerous situations. Gemma’s fear of water has kept her from moving in with the Townsons permanently, but her fondness for Ty and his family and her dark gift of exceptional hearing make her an equal protagonist. They seek out Gemma’s older brother, Shade, the suitably named leader of the Seablite Gang, for help in gaining information from the local outlaws, and Ty is forced to prove himself in a no-holds-barred boxing match. One of many adventures in the plot, this descriptive scene illuminates the many-layered social-class structure and the setting. Readers will empathize with the subsea pioneers, such as Ty’s parents hoping to develop a viable economy based on harvesting laver, a highly edible seaweed, and will relate to Captain Revas and her sometimes-misguided authoritarian decisions to protect the peace in her territory. Readers will immerse themselves in this burgeoning new world that leaves the door open for more adventures.  Gr 6-10  In DARK LIFE, author Kat Falls set a tense scene. In a dystopian future, conflict abounds between those living on a nearly decimated planetary surface and those pioneers who have used science to make a home on the sea floor. Two teenagers, forced by circumstances, bridge the gap between the two cultures and find themselves face to face with the fierce Seablite Gang. But, as readers learn in the follow-up, RIP TIDE, the gang is still a threat, and danger continues to lurk around every corner… The action is fast, almost non-stop, with a couple of good plot twists and some wicked details illuminating the sad state of affairs in this new world. RIP TIDE is well written and well paced, and the simplicity of its language betrays the complexity of its ideas. While the futuristic bits are fun and clever, the real power here is in the way Falls examines corruption of authority, oppression of the masses, and issues such as prejudice, poverty and stereotyping. Not only is this an entertaining adventure and a worthy sequel, it is a thought-provoking tale about power, determination, family and friendship.


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