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Best YA Mystery and Thriller of 2018

A fine escapade related with proper drama and likely to be news even to well-read young historians.

THE GRAND ESCAPE

THE GREATEST PRISON BREAKOUT OF THE 20TH CENTURY

Allied prisoners of war stage a series of intrepid escapes from German captors in this young readers’ version of a true story from World War I.

Established to hold captured Allied officers with histories of escape attempts, the camp at Holzminden, a “land-locked Alcatraz,” was 150 miles from the Dutch border and bristling with guards. Many of the inmates, though, were stimulated rather than discouraged by these obstacles and, from its foundation, made tries at freedom—most notably on the night of July 23, 1918, when 29 men crawled out through a narrow tunnel dug over the previous months. Only 10 eluded the ensuing manhunt, but the exploit made headlines in Great Britain and was, Bascomb (The Escape Artists, 2018, etc.) claims, “the greatest escape of the Great War.” Along with introducing a cast of colorful characters like RAF Lt. Harold Medlicott, “Britain’s answer to Harry Houdini,” who had already broken out of nine other camps, the author presents a picture of camp life as an oddly civilized affair in which the prisoners were so well-supplied from home that in the war’s immediate aftermath local residents came to them for food. The tales of the digging of the cramped tunnel and of the escape itself make suspenseful reading, enhanced by diagrams and photographs.

A fine escapade related with proper drama and likely to be news even to well-read young historians. (maps, sources, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14034-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Eerie and compelling. Fast track it to the top of the TBR pile.

THE GOOD DEMON

Not all demons are bad. Are they?

Set during an oppressively hot, humid summer in the deep American South, the narrative opens one month after the local reverend delivers 16-year-old Clare from evil. The thing no one understands is that She wasn’t evil. She was Clare’s best friend, her Only, and they were going to be together forever. Without Her, Clare feels unbearably alone, like there is a “long dark hallway” inside her. The discovery of a cryptic note in Her handwriting sets Clare on the path to getting Her back. The note contains three mysterious items: “Be nice to him / June 20 / Remember the stories.” As Clare develops feelings for the sheltered teenage son of the preacher who exorcised Her, she discovers something sinister simmering just under the surface of her small town. Something ancient, powerful, and vile, leading to the reclusive One Wish Man. Will he help Clare—and at what price? How far is she willing to go to get Her back? Evocative language will grab readers by the throat and forge an unforgiving connection to Clare’s despair and desperation. The gorgeous black-and-white artwork centered on mysterious symbols has a palpable mysticism about it. No mention of diversity implies a white default.

Eerie and compelling. Fast track it to the top of the TBR pile. (Horror. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3127-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

A taut, gripping page-turner with a strong female hero to root for.

I AM STILL ALIVE

Still battered from the car crash that took her mother’s life, Jess is sent to live in the remote Canadian wilderness with Carl, the father she barely remembers—and then he’s murdered.

Carl’s lessons in living off the grid (no phone, electricity, or running water) and hesitant attempts at connecting with Jess end abruptly when associates from his unsavory past arrive to collect money he doesn’t have. Hiding with Carl’s dog, Bo, Jess watches her dad ask for more time. Instead, Raph, the leader, shoots Carl. Burying him with the mysterious crate he’s safeguarded for them, they burn the cabin and fly off. Only Carl’s friend Griff, who flew her in, knows Jess is there, but he won’t return for a year. With brains and ingenuity compensating for her physical weakness, Jess finds shelter, makes fire, and feeds and protects herself and Bo. Yet small mistakes, moments of inattention, nearly prove lethal. Raph might return for the crate, and winter’s approaching. To obtain ammunition for Carl’s rifle, Jess makes a desperate but pivotal decision. Presumably white, as are other characters, Jess is believable, her setbacks realistic, her successes earned. She is on a solitary journey—a quest not for treasure but for survival—that demands all her strength, each day a test of endurance, patience, and hope.

A taut, gripping page-turner with a strong female hero to root for. (Thriller. 12-17)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-29098-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

A disturbing, suspenseful coming-of-age story about power, corruption, and the choices we make both for ourselves and the...

I, CLAUDIA

The last thing Claudia McCarthy wanted was power—that is, until she had some.

After years of being teased for her limp and her speech impediment, Claudia enters her new high school, Imperial Day Academy, with only one goal in mind: to be as invisible as possible. That is, until her mortal enemy, the powerful Honor Council member Livia Drusus, orders her to run for Student Senate, thereby thrusting Claudia into the spotlight. Against all odds, Claudia wins her election and, after uncovering a financial scandal within the current Senate, becomes vice president. As Claudia becomes more and more powerful, she begins to question the motivations of everyone around her—including her own. This retelling of the novel I, Claudius (1934) is a gripping political thriller told through a complex narrator whose facility for coldhearted political calculation is exceeded only by her capacity for self-doubt. Claudia is white, and the story features a diverse set of characters who are neither immune to the impact of nor entirely defined by their race, queerness, or physical ability. This narratorial approach is particularly refreshing when it comes to Claudia: Most notably, unlike the majority of disabled characters in young adult fiction, Claudia falls in (reciprocated) love with a popular, nondisabled student.

A disturbing, suspenseful coming-of-age story about power, corruption, and the choices we make both for ourselves and the ones we love. (Thriller. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5124-4846-7

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

A love letter to the intricacies of family and multitudinous black girlhood.

HOME AND AWAY

Eighteen-year-old Tasia struggles with uncertainty around identity and family in Montgomery’s debut novel.

Tasia Lynn Quirk is certain she knows exactly who she is—the daughter of a loving, financially well-off family, a confident and successful black private school senior, a kick-ass, and the only girl on her high school’s football team. The arrival of a mysterious box makes her solid world fly apart when she discovers that her biological father is not the black man who raised her but a white man named Merrick. Reeling from the betrayal and violent shift in her identity, Taze impulsively seeks out Merrick and his family as she tries to navigate the new chaos of her life. Montgomery’s thoughtful craft is driven by immediacy and tension and grounded in emotional authenticity. The depth of 21st-century young adult complexity is effortlessly inscribed in Taze’s character, including the frustrations and exhilaration of football, the complicated intensity of a new romantic relationship with a bisexual boy, the negotiation of the intersecting tensions of racism, colorism, sexism, and classism, and the difficult path to family healing. The juxtaposition of Taze’s exploration of her black biracial identity alongside the unfettered diversity of identity and experiences among the supporting cast goes beyond refreshing all the way to restorative for readers weary of the search for intersectional mirrors.

A love letter to the intricacies of family and multitudinous black girlhood. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62414-595-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Haunting. Mesmerizing. Completely unforgettable.

NOTES FROM MY CAPTIVITY

In 1987, Muscovites Grigor and Nika Osinov vanished amid whispers of sorcery.

Over the summer, 17-year-old aspiring journalist Adrienne Cahill is accompanying her stepfather, Dan, an anthropologist, to Siberia to search for the mysterious couple, rumored to now have several children. Unlike Dan, whose belief in the Osinovs borders on religious fervor, hardcore skeptic Adrienne is certain they’re just a legend—and an article disproving their existence is sure to earn her a college scholarship. However, in the middle of the trip, devastating and shocking events turn Adrienne into a believer. After she’s captured by the Osinovs, she promises herself she will make it back home, and she sets her escape plan in motion: Make the younger Osinov brother, Vanya, fall in love with her and take her back to civilization. Over time, the pair bond, and Adrienne inevitably falls in love with him. She also falls in love with the rest of the family: tough-as-nails matriarch, Nika; Vanya’s sweet-tempered sister, Clara; and brooding elder brother, Marat. Can Adrienne convince them to let her go? Does Adrienne’s rescue necessarily mean the Osinovs’ discovery? Is there truth to the stories about their mystical powers? Elements of magical realism give the story a dreamlike quality, while Adrienne’s wickedly sarcastic sense of humor keeps the story grounded in reality. Whiteness is assumed.

Haunting. Mesmerizing. Completely unforgettable. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-239400-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

A riveting tour de force.

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SADIE

Sadie is seeking her sister’s killer; months later, podcast producer West McCray seeks to learn why Sadie abandoned her car and vanished.

When Mattie was born to Claire, a white, drug-addicted, single mother, Sadie, 6, became her de facto parent. Her baby sister’s love filled a hole in Sadie’s fiercely protective heart. Claire favored Mattie, who remained attached to her long after Claire disappeared from their grim, trailer-park home in rural Colorado. Sadie believes that Mattie’s determination to find Claire—which Sadie opposed—led to her brutal murder at age 13. Now 19, Sadie sets out to find and kill the man she holds responsible for her sister’s murder. Interwoven with Sadie’s first-person account is the transcript of McCray’s podcast series, The Girls, tracking his efforts to learn what’s happened to Sadie, prompted and partly guided by the sisters’ sympathetic neighbor. West’s off-the-record conversations are also included. Sadie is smart, observant, tough, and at times heartbreakingly vulnerable, her interactions mediated by a profound stutter. In the podcast, characters first seen through Sadie’s ruthless eyes further reveal (or conceal) their interactions and motives. Like Salla Simukka’s Lumikki Andersson, Sadie’s a powerful avatar: the justice-seeking loner incarnated as a teenage girl. Sadie exempts no one—including herself—from her unsparing judgment. Conveyed indirectly through its effect on victims, child sexual abuse permeates the novel as does poverty’s intergenerational legacy.

A riveting tour de force. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-10571-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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