Imaginative suspense makes this one stand out. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

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DAMAGE

Inventive science fiction doubles as paranormal romance in this thrilling suspense tale.

Dani, afflicted with juvenile diabetes, spent much of her childhood in a hospital, where she had an imaginary friend, Rachel. Rachel loved to play at first, but then she tried to kill her. By the time Dani turns 15, Rachel has disappeared, but someone else may be trying to kill her in a staged bus accident. Seventeen-year old, rebellious Jessie saves her, but Jesse also has a terrifying imaginary foe, a fire-breathing dragon. As the two teens run from the accident, both Rachel and the dragon reappear, and although invisible, both can inflict real damage. Dani and Jesse learn that they were in the hospital at the same time and realize that an experimental drug may have caused their predicament, now even more dire as both the imaginary foes and real criminals pursue them. Part sci-fi, part romance, part crime thriller, these different elements weave together into a heart-pounding chase story that vibrates with danger. Rachel, especially, comes across as a unique creation that could stand alongside a monster from Stephen King. Dani and Jesse convince readers of their humanity, drawing them into the story completely. A nifty surprise ending caps it all.

Imaginative suspense makes this one stand out. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7387-2700-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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Heart-pounding.

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CEMETERY BOYS

A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A richly satisfying, Poirot-like ending for Johnson’s inspired and inspiring teen sleuth.

THE HAND ON THE WALL

From the Truly Devious series , Vol. 3

The final, riveting chapter of the Truly Devious murder series.

The initial incident in the series involved the 1936 abduction of newspaper tycoon Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter; the present volume probes several unsavory events that transpired afterward, including Ellingham’s own death in 1938, in a sailing accident on Lake Champlain, and the recent immolation of University of Vermont history professor and Ellingham mystery enthusiast Dr. Irene Fenton. Fenton was introduced to protagonist and contemporary “Ellingham Sherlock” Stevie Bell in The Vanishing Stair (2019). As Stevie gets closer to making good on her resolution to solve the Ellingham case’s past and present riddles, Johnson makes the most of the exclusive institution’s remote, wooded mountain locale, provocatively setting the climax of Stevie’s investigations during the throes of a cataclysmic blizzard. Stevie and her motley crew of misfit high school geniuses are stranded à la Agatha Christie with members of the Ellingham Academy administration, who may have a stake in the revelations of several secrets linking the Ellingham kidnappings with present-day murders. Throughout this intricately woven, fast-paced whodunit, Johnson demonstrates how proximity to wealth and power can mold and bend one’s behavior, whether with good or—here largely—devious intent. The brainy secondary characters' quirky talents and interests complement Stevie's sleuthing skills; while mostly White, they include diversity in socio-economic background, mental health challenges, physical disability, and sexual orientation.

A richly satisfying, Poirot-like ending for Johnson’s inspired and inspiring teen sleuth. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-233811-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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