Butler revives the moribund with her fresh take on aliens, vampires, and the undead.

Wrong Side of the Grave

An alien who feeds on vampires is stumped when the recently dead in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, are apparently no longer dead in Butler’s (Book of the Lost, 2013, etc.) YA supernatural thriller.

Eric Jansen is just your typical teenager and drummer for a rock band. Except, when not in human form, he’s a red-eyed, centuries-old alien who has spurred the local Mothman legend. His food source on Earth is vampires, allowing him to work in cooperation with a secret government agency. But he becomes the men in black’s first suspect when bodies at the funeral home start sitting up, walking, and talking. He and his human bestie, Bridget, initiate their own investigation, while the city folk crowd the cemetery, convinced that subterranean loved ones will soon awaken. Eric, however, fears that someone may be on to him when Bridget suddenly disappears. This entertaining novel navigates well-trod ground with style. The vampires, for instance, seem like typical bloodsuckers but are actually aliens that Eric’s kind has followed to Earth. Both Eric and Bridget are cynical but charmingly so, and endless alien-related puns never get old, like Eric’s suggestion that “people who live in invisible spaceships shouldn’t throw stones.” Along with a grand plot and vibrant characters, including the enigmatic Agent Hisato Ikeda, who Eric thinks might be an alien, Butler delivers a notable mystery/thriller. Dramatic tension is wielded expertly; Eric and Bridget, for example, distrust a funeral director and news reporter, who may have their own agendas. Butler dabbles into Eric’s background but doesn’t overdo the flashbacks. The same is true for aliens in general; readers only glimpse the interior of Eric’s concealed spacecraft (and hear what can only be presumed is alien profanity: “Slux!”). Romance between Eric and Bridget is wonderfully understated, as everyone but the couple appears to recognize that they’re more than just friends. Limitless possibilities to explore their relationship, as well as a lingering unconquered foe, give the next book of the proposed series a smashing head start.

Butler revives the moribund with her fresh take on aliens, vampires, and the undead.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1507898079

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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MATILDA

After some autobiographical excursions, Dahl here returns to the sort of whimsically grotesque fantasy that makes grown-ups wince and children beg for more. His heroine is five-year-old Matilda, a genius whose mathematical abilities, as well as her impressive reading list (Hemingway, Steinbeck, etc.), are totally unappreciated by her father—a dishonest used-car salesman—and her mother, a devotee of bingo and TV soaps. Only when the girl enters school does she find an understanding ally, Miss Honey, a paragon of virtue who attempts to defend her pupils against unbelievably cruel headmistress Miss Trunchbull, who hates children in direct proportion to their youth and tortures them accordingly. Just when things seem to be at their worst, Matilda discovers still another gift, telekinesis, enabling her to defeat the horrible Trunchbull and give Miss Honey, and herself, a new start. Dahl's tightly woven plots, his strict sense of absolute justice, and his raunchy "funny bits" make him popular with children who also appreciate the empowerment he grants to his smaller, weaker protagonists. Matilda is the most simplistic of his efforts in this direction, but it does retain the time-honored appeal, abetted by Blake's apt illustrations. It probably should be marked "For Children Only," though. And Dahl slips badly when he says that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have no "funny bits" in their books.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0142410373

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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