A measured but absorbing tale featuring intriguing characters with largely untapped abilities.

GRADY WHILL AND THE TEMPLETON CODEX

A SUPERHERO HIGH SCHOOL ADVENTURE

In Roman’s YA series starter, a teenager joins a secret academy in which kids discover and hone their superpowers.

Grady Whill was so young when his parents died that he doesn’t remember them. Nowthe 14-year-old lives with his paternal uncle Leo, a radio DJ, and works part time to help keep the household afloat. At school, Grady and his bright, loyal best friend, Aarush Patel, who is autistic, have humiliating run-ins with football player Elwood Bledsoe, a relentless bully. Like many other kids their age, they dream of getting into Templeton Academy, an exclusive high school that only selects students whom they deem to have “rare talent.” Amazingly, Templeton accepts both Grady and Aarush; unfortunately, Elwood will also be joining them. The isolated academy, on an island off the Port of Miami, isn’t quite what Grady expected. There’s a lot of baffling stuff there, including a class called Subconscious Studies; there’s also a focus on students’ building their individual “powers”—which may include superpowers. The school’s creed, from which all the lessons of the school are drawn, is the enigmatic Codex—a highly secured ancient artifact that no one is allowed to see. Grady thinks about leaving Templeton, as he’s sure at least one teacher dislikes him, and Elwood continues to victimize him. But when he discovers an evil plan is afoot, he, Aarush, and their new school friends must find and unite their strengths, go up against some powerful people, and confront several of the island’s hidden dangers.

Overall, Roman keeps this opening installment rather vague. Leo, for example, cryptically disapproves of Grady’s attending Templeton but says nothing more than that Grady’s late grandfather wouldn’t be happy about it. Similarly, students learn the Codex’s quatrains and apparently apply them to their lives and academy lessons, but the ambiguous assignments include such things as a four-page paper on how “Looks can be deceiving.” As this is a novel of discovery, superpowers don’t dominate the proceedings, although a few characters’ special abilities do eventually crop up. The students also pick up valuable lessons along the way, such as that strength is more than simply physical. Grady, who narrates the story, is a sympathetic character who lost his beloved grandparents, who raised him from infancy, only a year before the events of the novel. Although he complains quite often at Templeton, he also has low self-esteem and wonders if he’s special enough to be at the academy. A superb set of supporting characters surrounds Grady—most notably Aarush, Aarush’s warmhearted cousin Pari, and Bailey Sloane, who delightfully takes no guff from anyone, including Elwood. Roman effectively depicts the island as a beautiful but mysterious and possibly dangerous place; one side of the island, for example, is a “craggy mountain with several jagged peaks,” but it’s coupled with a soft, “powdery” beach. Although readers will find that many questions linger at the end, the story promises to provide revelations in a subsequent volume.

A measured but absorbing tale featuring intriguing characters with largely untapped abilities.

Pub Date: July 18, 2022

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 267

Publisher: Chelshire

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2022

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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Intervals of intense suspense and a well-crafted puzzle blend to create a thrill ride of a story.

FIVE SURVIVE

Red Kenny and her friends’ spring break road trip veers off course when they are detained by a sniper.

Since her police captain mother’s murder, Red has been inseparable from Maddy Lavoy, though it’s often difficult for Red to witness the warm family dynamics Maddy and her brother, Oliver, share with their mother, an assistant DA and Red’s late mother’s best friend. Red, the Lavoy siblings, and three other friends—Reyna Flores-Serrano, Arthur Moore, and Simon Yoo—embark in a borrowed RV on a journey to Gulf Shores but instead find themselves in the crosshairs of a long-range rifle held by a man demanding that one of them reveal an important secret. As Red battles internally with her guilt and grief over her mother’s death, her companions become increasingly volatile and paranoid as the group tries to discern whose secret is the one the hostage taker is after. The sometimes-tedious, sometimes-intense moment-by-moment breakdown of events in the 31-foot RV (that seems much smaller as the night wears on) magnifies the claustrophobia. Subtle indications that no one can really be trusted alternate with mind-blowing revelations. Toxic masculinity is often at war with common sense and good judgment, and moral ambiguity abounds. Red, Arthur, and the Lavoy siblings read White; Reyna is Mexican American, and Simon is cued as biracial (Korean and White). (This review has been updated to correct a character’s name.)

Intervals of intense suspense and a well-crafted puzzle blend to create a thrill ride of a story. (maps) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-37416-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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