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From the Freaks series , Vol. 2

Adolescent issues compete for attention with monsters, not all nonhuman, in this grimdark sequel.

Defeating a blood-sucking monster from another dimension turns out to be only the warm-up for a team of superpowered teens.

Their efforts to expand their newly acquired powers while keeping them secret and playing surveillance games with a hostile unit of government men enter a more active phase for the six self-dubbed Freaks with the sudden appearance of scores of eerily alert rabbits in their small Arkansas town. At the same time, the arrival of a new classmate, nonbinary Latinx Bec Villalobos, roils the hormonal waters for both White lesbian Christian and African American brainiac Jamie. Angry, traumatized Micah, who is White, falls under the sway of his sinister great-uncle Baltar—a stranger with a weirdly compelling voice and a murky but plainly evil agenda. All three developments prove hard challenges to the team’s already fragile cohesiveness. But a series of increasingly violent encounters (interspersed with Micah’s flashbacks to his mother’s dismemberment by a monster in the previous volume) culminate in a face-off with an ancient, powerful shape-shifting trickster out to wreak vengeance for the persecution of local Indigenous nations. Along with brutal scenes of torture and bloodshed (not to mention references to at least eight more lurking supernatural foes to feed future episodes), Riley weaves explorations of anger issues and budding romance as well as forthrightly confronted themes of racial, religious, and class conflict.

Adolescent issues compete for attention with monsters, not all nonhuman, in this grimdark sequel. (Horror fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-945501-47-0

Page Count: 311

Publisher: Imbrifex Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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