Reviews for Alex Wise vs. the end of the world

School Library Journal
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Gr 4–7—What to do when the four horsemen of the apocalypse rise, and Death takes over the body of your nine-year-old little sister? Alex Wise will need to gather all his inner strength, accept himself, and assemble a horsemen-fighting super squad in this fast-paced, comedic fantasy. It's the beginning of summer break, and Alex has one goal: to win back his former best friend, Sky, the only person he ever came out to. Unfortunately, Alex's mother has other plans: shipping him and his sister, Mags, off on a cruise with their father and his sparkly new family, including a teenaged son who is rugged and athletic—seemingly everything that Alex is not. However, when Mags is kidnapped by a mysterious shadow man and then possessed, Alex doesn't hesitate to throw himself fully into danger after her. Thankfully, Alex has his supportive BFF Loren by his side and is soon accompanied by Liam, a lonely and troubled demigod who grew up with the horsemen. After Alex is chosen by Orin, a nonbinary god of empathy, as their vessel, he and his new team of heroes must master their powers to save Mags. A central quest that embraces empathy and understanding as superpowers, featuring nearly all Black and brown characters, is refreshing; many teachers or parents will appreciate this book's central message of trauma recovery and self-acceptance. Additionally, the lack of profanity, gore, or even intense peril make this a perfect choice for younger readers, particularly those looking for queer stories. VERDICT With nonstop action that is always thrilling but never too scary, this fantasy is perfect for younger readers who are fans of Rick Riordan or Kwame Mbalia.—Catherine Cote

Publishers Weekly
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A Black 12-year-old’s family trip is derailed by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in this action-packed series starter by Benton-Walker (The Blood Debts). Now that his bestie is vacationing elsewhere for the summer, Los Angeleno Alex Wise is more determined than ever to win back his former friend, who ditched him for a new pal at the beginning of the school year. Alex’s mother has other plans for, though: along with his younger sister Mags, Alex is setting sail on a cruise with his father, whom the siblings haven’t seen since their parents divorced two years ago. Alex tries to make the most of his time at sea, but the relaxing cruise is plagued by Mags’s insistence that there’s a Shadow Man aboard the ship. When she’s taken by the Shadow Man and possessed by the spirit of Death, Alex endeavors to save her. But with the spirits of Famine, Pestilence, and War by her side, he has his work cut out for him. This adventurous tale—propelled by a hero whose reluctance drips from his first-person narration—weaves themes of standing up for oneself in their personal life with high-octane sequences that culminate in a satisfyingly earnest first installment. Ages 8–12. Agent: Patrice Caldwell, New Leaf Literary. (Sept.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Twelve-year-old Alex Wise already knew this would be the worst summer ever—he just didn’t think it would also be his last. When Mags, his little sister who shares his “dark brown eyes, chestnut skin, and full lips,” gets hurt while under his care, Alex’s mom sends them to their dad’s for the summer. This sucks for two reasons: Alex’s dad has a new family, and Alex is being haunted by Shadow Man, a presence he can’t shake. When Shadow Man abducts Mags, Alex is thrown into a chaotic journey to save his sister and the world, pitted against four murderous Horsemen set on starting an apocalypse. Along the way Alex gets possessed by Orin, a god who is asexual and nonbinary, and is joined in his fight by Loren, his queer BFF, and Liam, a mysterious, magical, teenage guardian. Benton-Walker presents Alex’s inner conflicts over being gay and feeling abandoned by people with such understanding, concern, and affirmation that it’s easy to root for him. However, because the story jumps around without clear transitions, readers rarely get chances to breathe and appreciate the thoughtful queer representation and predominantly Black cast. Even though the writing is compelling, the choppy chapters often build up to plot twists that make the story feel less cohesive instead of providing strong threads to follow through to the end. A wild, roving, but disjointed ride to the end of the world and beyond. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 9-13) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.