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From the Freaks series , Vol. 1

Twists aplenty in a gorefest replete with violent emotions and events.

Four savagely bullied ninth graders suddenly acquire superpowers.

Christian, proudly out as lesbian since sixth grade, and her friends—geeky Micah, mousy Gabby, and uptight Jamie—inadvertently open an interdimensional hole by playing with an old book of spells. It somehow leaves them with a diverse mix of abilities, from shooting flames to flying. Only Micah burns to repay their trio of bullies for years of pantsing, swirlies, threats, and humiliating pranks. The other three take broader views, which turns out to be a good thing, as a cunning, telepathic, blood-sucking monster from another dimension has also come through the hole to crush heads and feed on residents of their small Arkansas town. Riley goes for the gusto, opening with raw language and vividly explicit incidents of bullying followed by rising general terror punctuated by sprays of blood. He also stirs in some juicy complications, as tracking and battling the monster requires the self-styled Freaks not only to learn to control their powers and rein in the half-deranged Micah, but somehow find a way to work with one of the bullies who had been lurking near the spellcasting and has come away with superstrength and the emotional stability of the Hulk. Both unresolved internal conflicts and the revelation that there are more monsters out there promise further entries. Christian and Micah present White; Gabby is Jewish and Latina, and Jamie is African American.

Twists aplenty in a gorefest replete with violent emotions and events. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-945501-53-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Imbrifex Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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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 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2021

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