A blood-soaked, laugh-filled, tear-drenched, endlessly compelling read.

SPONTANEOUS

A small New Jersey town is rocked by a disastrous phenomenon.

Mara Carlyle’s senior year is just beginning when Katelyn Ogden blows up—literally—during pre-calc. After the blood is cleaned off the walls and the class tries to move on, another student pops like a balloon during a therapy session. And then another combusts on the football field during the big game. The spontaneous combustions spread through the senior class in Mara’s suburban town, claiming kids of all colors, creeds, and class, seemingly sparing no one. No one but Mara, that is. As the white teen does her best to adapt to the increasingly absurd circumstances surrounding her, Starmer weaves a dark and hilarious tale that is unafraid to provoke laughs and chills in equal measure. Mara strikes the perfect balance between snark and smarts, providing quips and heart in equal measure. Her relationship with ice cream–truck–driving mystery boy Dylan, also white, deepens as their classmates burst all around them, and their love story is just as compelling as the mystery behind the explosions. The author has no trouble pushing these characters through hell, but the book reaches true greatness when readers see them on the other side and explore what’s left of them. Subplots involving an opportunistic scientist, a foulmouthed president, and a badass FBI agent push this one into must-read territory.

A blood-soaked, laugh-filled, tear-drenched, endlessly compelling read. (. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42974-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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