Entertaining, but confused about its point of view.

COLIN FISCHER

The subgenre combining sleuthing with characters who have Asperger syndrome gets a new entry offering humor and interesting historical and scientific connections—but the narrative viewpoint drifts unsettlingly.

Colin begins high school with a cheat sheet to decipher facial expressions, but he no longer uses a “shadow,” an adult to help him navigate the social landscape. The hallway’s crowded (Colin hates touch); the bathroom sign is blue (a color he dislikes); and Wayne (who’s been bullying him for years) dunks his head in the toilet. As the plot unfolds—bullying, Colin’s arithmetical approach to basketball, birthday cake and a real gun going off in the cafeteria—Colin tracks everything in his notebook (facts only). Many entries end with this plan: “Investigate.” As a sleuth, Colin’s sharply observant, his discoveries impressive. The gun mystery doesn’t frighten him: “Wayne Connelly is innocent, and I will prove it. The game is afoot.” Disconcertingly, the narrative voice conveys some of Colin’s thoughts but also some of his parents’ and Wayne’s; sometimes it aligns itself with Colin’s perspective, sometimes it describes him from the outside (“her irony as lost on Colin as it usually was”). Omniscience is one thing, authorial convenience another. This mobile narrative allegiance makes it hard to pinpoint whether the Asperger humor is from Colin or about him.

Entertaining, but confused about its point of view. (Fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59514-578-9

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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

THE LAKE

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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