An alternately muddled and engaging read.


A teen’s troubled past links her to a freak show performer from the 1920s.

Frankie Doe doesn’t remember anything about how she wound up in foster care, but she remembers her abusive foster homes all too well. Luckily, her current foster mother, Kris, is supportive, helping her to address her anger and encouraging her art. Friends are another story. To conceal lamellar ichthyosis, a genetic disorder that leaves her skin cracked and peeling, Frankie wears heavy goth makeup, which also conveniently keeps anyone from getting too close. When, in her dreams, she suddenly becomes Frances—aka Alligator Girl, a freak show performer who shared her disorder—she discovers that Frances’ past and her own share disturbing similarities. And when, to her horror, an eerily familiar man invites Frankie to join his circus, she’s plunged into a nightmare that threatens to destroy both her and Kris. She might have to ask for help—but whom can she trust? Flashbacks from Frances’ perspective sympathetically explore the complexity of freak shows, portraying disabled people’s exploitation and camaraderie as well as the societal prejudice that prevented them from finding other work. However, Frankie’s storyline falls somewhat flat amid convenient coincidences and loose ends. Trauma is respectfully explored, though some references to sexual assault are presented in a way that leaves readers little time to process. Most characters default to White; several are Egyptian Canadian, and Frances’ father is Métis.

An alternately muddled and engaging read. (Paranormal suspense. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4597-4758-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.


From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet