A page-turning mystery with a bit of hipsterism and an onion’s worth of layers.


Unable to recall what scarred her face a few months ago, a teen tries using documentary filmmaking to make sense of her life—and uncovers layers of horror.

Theo combs her hair in front of the scar left by a 4-inch gash on her jaw. Is it from an accident? An assault? She has no idea. Avoiding her friends, she sits in a cafe clandestinely filming a strange boy using a button cam and an iPhone. Theo and Andy—the unknowing documentary subject—meet and travel all around New York City, ostensibly trying to track down a girl he’s in love with yet somehow barely knows. In reality, they’re peeling off layer after layer of Theo’s own past. Theo and Andy both seem to be in trauma-induced fugue states, an unlikely coincidence; Theo’s confusion and desperation could also be coming from popping Lexapro at several times her prescribed dosage and barely sleeping. Her thoughts “riddle [her] head like machine-gun fire and zoom off in a trail of smoke before [she] can make sense of them”; her “shaky, electric, fuck-you energy” quivers with naiveté, her first-person narration as unreliable to herself as to readers. The horrific truth gets worse until the very end, when the puzzle pieces slam into place.

A page-turning mystery with a bit of hipsterism and an onion’s worth of layers. (Mystery. 14-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61695-194-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.


Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.


From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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