An engrossing page-turner that bites off a bit more than it can chew.

THICKER THAN WATER

A lonely teen is the only suspect in his mother's murder.

Thomas Bellweather's mother was happily remarried for just 10 days before she was found dead in her bed. Now Tom is stuck in a town he barely knows with an awkward stepdad, a cop, and a police force breathing down his neck. At his mother's funeral he is befriended by Charlotte Rooker, a girl with a dad and three brothers that all happen to be cops. Charlotte believes in Tom's innocence, but a series of misadventures puts Tom in deeper and deeper trouble. Kemmerer spends the first two-thirds of the novel perfectly painting a small town with big fears. The author also sprinkles in just the right amount of teen lust and whodunit misdirects. The book’s problems start when the narrative shifts gears into paranormal hokum, a disappointment when the author was building up such a great head of steam. Kemmerer is able to stick the landing, but only barely. A lot of exposition is thrown in at the last minute to make everything click into place, and the author's hands are felt far more than in the first two acts, which are effortless by comparison. The novel leaves a few small things unanswered, and a return to this world would not be unwelcome, particularly now that all the heavy lifting regarding empaths and Tom's shadowy father is out of the way.

An engrossing page-turner that bites off a bit more than it can chew. (Paranormal thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7582-9441-8

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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