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5 Spine-Tingling YA Thrillers

Aguirre (The Shadow Warrior, 2019, etc.) writes compelling and accessible characters who fumble through complicated...

HEARTWOOD BOX

A fast-paced paranormal romance blends teen life with thrilling covert exploits.

Having traveled extensively with her journalist parents, Araceli Flores Harper is used to unusual experiences in far-flung locales. Senior year in exile at her great-aunt’s crumbling Victorian home in rural New York state promises to be dull by comparison, but nothing could have prepared Araceli for the strange, frightening, and dangerous aspects of her newest home. Araceli, whose mother is white and American and father is Mexican, discovers that the town’s deep-seated racism coupled with recent mysterious disappearances are keeping everyone in her ethnically and sexually diverse circle of new friends on edge. Digging into the details surrounding the town’s secretive government research facility just creates more questions—and risk—as Araceli struggles to find a connection between the ghosts of the past and the current conflict in which she’s embroiled. Despite juggling dance team tryouts, learning to drive, and investigating leads, Araceli finds time to establish a romantic pen-pal relationship with an enigmatic stranger. Add this to the ever growing list of bizarre phenomena that she must navigate, and readers may find themselves wondering what to focus on. Social consciousness is woven naturally into the story, leaving readers with something more substantial to think on after the book has ended.

Aguirre (The Shadow Warrior, 2019, etc.) writes compelling and accessible characters who fumble through complicated supernatural situations with humor and grit. (Supernatural thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9764-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

A twisted, engrossing tale of relationships intermingling to disaster.

THAT NIGHT

A girl struggles to understand her boyfriend’s suicide—or to discover if it really was a suicide.

For years, Hailey’s life has revolved around the charismatic stepbrothers across the street. Popular, handsome Kane’s her childhood best friend—they lost their virginity together as fumbling, awkward 15-year-olds. Then there’s his equally charismatic stepbrother—brilliant, talented, devout Declan—a gorgeous multiracial boy (Hailey fetishizes his ethnically ambiguous features). Told from Hailey’s point of view, the story jumps back and forth between the present—a year after Declan’s death—and flashbacks to her intense, romantic relationship with Declan and the lead-up to his death. Hailey, whose life has fallen to pieces since that night (after a lengthy in-patient stay, she’s self-harming and drinking), suffers from what her therapist calls selective retention, her brain refusing to process painful memories as suicide runs so counter to the Declan she knew. Then Declan’s mother finds a strange photograph and threatening message among his things. Soon, Hailey’s seeing hints of something suspicious everywhere she turns. Desperate, Hailey pushes hard, slowly unraveling relationships and secrets in her own memories. The vividly-drawn characters are consumed by the drama of their powerful feelings. The truth she finally finds is downright chilling. Most characters default to white.

A twisted, engrossing tale of relationships intermingling to disaster. (Thriller/mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7904-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

A gripping story of love, obsession, and the space in between.

THE BEST LIES

When a friendship turns sour and a boyfriend ends up dead, what will it take to unravel the reasons why?

When Remy Tsai meets Elise Ferro, all she wants is to be friends. Elise is confident, fierce, and strong—ready to defend anyone from injustice, either with a few choice words or with a carefully planned act of revenge. Remy wants to be just like her. Elise offers an escape from Remy’s fighting parents, from Remy’s perfect brother, and from Remy’s other friends, who are growing distant. But beneath Elise’s brazen exterior, she has her own wounds. As their friendship intensifies, Elise begins to clash with Remy’s boyfriend, Jack. When Jack is shot and killed, Remy must sort through abuse, guilt, and love to understand what happened. Was it self-defense, or did the differences between Elise and Jack finally become too much? Remy and Elise’s sometimes-electrifying, sometimes-toxic relationship is explored in detail, making both girls’ actions understandable, if still reprehensible at times. Though the drama is extreme, the trauma Elise and Remy both carry is explored deftly, and Elise’s hold on Remy is tantalizing throughout. Remy is Chinese-American, has another Asian-American friend, and notes that her schools have become more diverse, though most of the other characters, including Elise, are white.

A gripping story of love, obsession, and the space in between. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9883-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

Readers who crave nonstop plot-driven adventure will not be disappointed.

SKYJACKED

Five high school sophomores returning to their New York prep school from a camping trip in Idaho realize that their private plane has been hijacked.

The passenger list includes Japanese-American Cassie, whose father owns the plane; her best friend, Indian-American Brandon; football star Tim, who is white; Tim’s Latinx girlfriend, Emily; Korean-American Jay, who feels out of place as a working-class boy on a baseball scholarship; and three white adults—their chaperone, pilot, and a substitute copilot. Soon after takeoff, something does not seem right: Cassie becomes seriously ill, and the plane is heading west. The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between the viewpoints of the teens on the plane and that of Michelle, a 16-year-old Nigerian-American intern at the National Air Traffic Investigation Center who is trying to discover the identity and motivation of the hijacker. Readers learn about each character—their personal ambitions, fears, thoughts, and mutual history. With the clock ticking before disaster ensues, emotions run high, the kidnappees have violent emotional breakdowns, and everyone questions whom to trust before readers learn the true motive behind the hijacking. Using straightforward, unadorned language that will appeal to reluctant readers, Griffin (Saving Marty, 2017, etc.) seamlessly weaves in topics such as financial struggles, family expectations, and relationship complications, shedding light on the friends, their emotions, and the hijacking without slowing down the action. Diversity is indicated solely through names.

Readers who crave nonstop plot-driven adventure will not be disappointed. (Thriller. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-04741-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

For those who are not faint of heart, morally or otherwise, and who wish to sink into an intricate, subtle, and deeply...

HERE THERE ARE MONSTERS

A creepy, insidious tale that shows how treacherous a sister’s attachment can be.

After a move, two teenage sisters find themselves in a new home on the edge of the woods, where Skye branches out while introspective Deirdre finds solace playing games her sister no longer has patience for. When Deirdre vanishes, Skye is forced to reexamine the past choices she made to protect her sister and must decide if she will face the grim, irreversible consequences of saving Deirdre again. These memories form a haunting exposition that Bérubé (The Dark Beneath the Ice, 2018) uses in conjunction with the plot to covertly insert suspense. They are so seamlessly executed that readers can forget whether they are in Skye’s past or present world. This does conjure up some confusion but also creates an immersive, nuanced world and characters who can’t be labeled as merely “good” or “bad.” Three section breaks named after different characters have lush illustrations of flora and fauna and lines quoting poet Gwendolyn McEwen that act as an aesthetic backdrop to the actual story; each is narrated from Skye’s first-person perspective. All characters default to white.

For those who are not faint of heart, morally or otherwise, and who wish to sink into an intricate, subtle, and deeply unsettling read. (Horror. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7101-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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