PLAYING WITH FIRE

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

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. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

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 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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