A frantic and harrowing but predictable tale of group dynamics and survival.

PLAYING WITH FIRE

A group of strangers searches for a path to safety as a forest fire encroaches on them in this adventure thriller.

Natalia and Wyatt, two teens from Portland, Oregon, venture on a short hike which goes awry when a fire breaks out, blocking the trail. Wyatt’s wilderness experience and Natalia’s aspirations to become a doctor prove to be boons for the people they encounter and join forces with as they are trying to escape. These include a family—Ryan, Lisa, and their toddler, Trask; a man called Darryl and his grandson, Zion; Beatriz and Marco, a young couple; an older woman named Susan; and two men, AJ and Jason. In an escalating accumulation of bad luck that strains credulity, the group members in turn experience extraordinary injuries, health problems, and psychological challenges during the ill-fated journey. Natalia struggles with tragic events from her past that are explained in several interspersed flashbacks. The fast-paced action described through Natalia’s anxious but practical third-person voice will initially hook readers, and for those able to suspend their disbelief, it may carry them through the novel. However, the shallow presentation, particularly of the secondary characters, may lessen the title’s appeal. Natalia and Wyatt seem to be White by default; there is ethnic diversity in the supporting cast.

A frantic and harrowing but predictable tale of group dynamics and survival. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23406-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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This fast-paced thriller will keep readers guessing.

THE FEAR

This perspective-jumping thriller shows you the two sides of fear.

Izzy has had a crush on Justin forever, but in her last year at Rock Bay High, will she be able to finally talk to him, or will the sudden violent death of a classmate put a wrench in the situation? After a meme daring everyone to repost how they are most afraid to die races through the teenage population, a student appears to have been killed exactly in the way she had feared. Izzy must race against time to find the killer, and with no shortage of suspects, everyone is under suspicion: her loner lab partner, Axel; his older cousin, Tristan; and even Justin, who has been acting strange. It becomes clear no one is safe from experiencing fear. This swift-moving slasher adventure proves to be a page-turning mystery. The book is written in the first-person perspective, allowing readers a deeper view into Izzy’s mind; whether she is thinking Axel is innocent or the killer, her stream of thought and persistent questioning give readers clues to help connect the dots before surprising them with clever plot twists at the end. Main characters read as White; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast.

This fast-paced thriller will keep readers guessing. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-12501-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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