Fast and intense, this is a galloping thriller with something extra for romantics.

The opening scenes set the pace for this stomach-clencher of a chase.

Katelyn’s mother, Melissa, doesn’t want anyone to know her business, and they move often. Why is not clear. Katelyn, ignorant of her mother’s motives, creates an online dating profile for Melissa, blowing their cover. Melissa’s words as she hectically starts packing bags are ominous: “They found us.” Katelyn knows things are serious when Melissa steals their elderly neighbor’s vehicle to use as a getaway car. Narrated in the first person by Katelyn, the story keeps readers as much in the dark as she is. To keep her safe, Melissa leaves Katelyn in a motel room while she goes off to deal with things, leaving Katelyn to untangle a somewhat overblown tale of thwarted love and a cold-case murder. Her first clue appears along with a brutal bounty hunter who busts into her room. Katelyn escapes and, in the process, rescues computer whiz Malcolm, whom the bounty hunter has kidnapped for his tech skills. Malcolm, who is Black in a default White cast, is able to tell Katelyn why Melissa is being sought. Together, the duo enters a cat-and-mouse game, trying to locate Melissa while staying one step ahead of the bounty hunter. The chapters are short, featuring terse chapter titles—“Flee,” “Evade,” “Hostage”—and each ends with a cliffhanger, making this page-turner appealing and accessible for reluctant readers.

Fast and intense, this is a galloping thriller with something extra for romantics. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17981-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Underlined

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020


An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021


An atmospheric and entertaining thriller perfect for snowy night chills.

A group of teens stranded in a snowstorm discovers a murderer in their midst.

While traveling on the highway to a state theater competition, Nell and her friends Min, Raven, Adam, and Jermaine are caught in a dangerous blizzard. Their teacher, Mrs. McElroy, who is driving the minivan, decides to stop for the night at the run-down and shady-looking Travel Inn and Out. The motel is labyrinthine and spooky, with dingy corridors and walls adorned with moldering kitsch. Nell and the gang meet another group of kids who are also stranded by the storm, making fast friends. A game of Two Truths and a Lie starts out flirty and fun but devolves into something more sinister when one slip of paper reads “I like to watch people die,” and “I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.” The snow falls and the winds howl, and soon power and cell service are lost, cutting off the motel patrons from the outside world. As the first victim is discovered and the body count begins to grow, the terror becomes palpable. Everyone at the motel seems to have an insidious secret: Will Nell be able to uncover the killer before they strike again? An homage to Agatha Christie, Henry’s locked-room mystery is tautly plotted, with quick-moving nail-biting chapters, relatable characters, and a deftly wrought setting that paradoxically manages to feel both claustrophobic and sprawling. Nell is White; there is diversity among the secondary characters.

An atmospheric and entertaining thriller perfect for snowy night chills. (Mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-32333-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

Close Quickview