MISSING

As 13-year-old Maxine assaults an arcade video game, the reader is dropped into the fray and knows that this girl is suffering from more than teen angst. It has been ten months since her brother Derek ran away from home: a final desperate solution to escape a rabid school bully. Derek had found his parents unhelpful, and they are now so burdened with sorrow that they hardly notice Maxine except to scold. When Derek is confirmed dead, Maxine’s grief is complicated by a sense of relief that is soon followed by desolation as she sees that his death has only made him a bigger presence in the household. The story takes an eerie turn when Maxine starts getting phone calls from the cemetery, the ghostly voice of Derek coming down the line, and her mother begins sensing Derek’s presence through mediums. Is someone playing a wicked trick? Is Derek a ghost? Is Derek still alive? The pace quickens and MacPhail, a newcomer to US publishing, steadily delivers goose-bump-raising tidbits to keep those pages turning. The tale is so involving that when the ending arrives it is too soon, but certainly not disappointing, as it is both frightening and triumphant. The story, with characters as palpable as this page, works on many levels: it explores the complexity of grief and love, the devastating fact of runaways living on the street, and the powerful menace of bullies, all in the guise of a good old-fashioned ghost story. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58234-773-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2002

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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