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From the Freaks series , Vol. 3

Even series fans may bog down in this turgid tangle of physical and emotional violence.

Moody adolescent superheroes tackle a dragon.

It’s more about feels than choices in this third series entry, as any sense of teamwork that might have built up in previous fights with a vampiric monster and a shape-changing trickster god dissolves in an acid churn of angst, guilt, rage, romantic confusion, and conflicting agendas. Riley moves the turmoil to center stage by opting for a frustratingly slow buildup with only a few flame-broiled hunters in the Arkansas woods to divert interest from the increasing tensions within the central group. These are exacerbated both by the need to keep their powers secret from a growing cast of psychopathic federal secret agents hot on their trail and by personality changes, including once-steady team leader Jamie’s sudden attraction to violence and former bigoted bully Kenneth’s slow move toward maturity thanks to a levelheaded girlfriend. The author trucks in an appealing lilac dragon named Arsiss the Gentle who just wants to protect wildlife and be left alone. Her ability to change size, turn invisible, and shoot fire, ice, or blood at will proves enough of a match for the magical powers and high-tech weaponry of the wantonly aggressive humans to make the extended climactic battle as wild, savage, and deadly as it is ironically unnecessary. The conclusion leaves the Freaks and their associates facing both deep rifts and a new and genuinely sinister threat.

Even series fans may bog down in this turgid tangle of physical and emotional violence. (Horror fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781945501944

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Imbrifex Books

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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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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