This gleefully macabre tale hints at a series with great potential.



This middle-grade thriller finds a brother and sister tangling with an impossibly powerful coin and a gruesome stalker.

Twelve-year-old RJ walks with his younger sister one summer evening. Shelly, who’s 10, is much braver than her brother. She stops to examine something in front of a decrepit, “castle-like house” at the end of their cul-de-sac. Behind the house is a wooded cliff and a lake, in which their father, a fisherman, recently disappeared. Shelly, a collector of weird things, picks up a coin and pockets it. As they walk, she suddenly screams in pain: “The coin—my leg!” RJ then hears a strange voice whisper, “Throw it in the lake.” After he throws the coin as far onto the property as possible, Shelly reveals she was kidding. They walk home, and RJ sees what look like red eyes near the castle. Later, RJ notices a scraggly man with a sharp cane, first at the grocery store, then at his and Shelly’s lemonade stand. This is the Impaler, whose presence terrifies RJ while Mom attends an award ceremony with Ed, her scientist boyfriend. Worse, the coin reappears, this time causing bizarre sores and strange evil urges in the normally timid RJ. Now he’s determined to banish the coin to the lake. Crantz begins a series, in the vein of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, with this chilling blend of mystery and SF. Readers have plenty to juggle early on, primarily the true fate of the siblings’ father. The kids’ exploration of the horrid house kicks off the narrative’s second half. A few characters aren’t who they seem to be, and younger audiences will learn not to judge people by their appearances. The author effectively offers indelible images, like the Impaler, who’s “mangy and dirty like a coyote, but moved like a squid lost on land.” While the danger of the coin is entertaining, Crantz lays impressive groundwork for the series by introducing “Project: FrightVision,” which mentions other cursed objects and explains the whereabouts of Wally Swanson, a missing neighborhood child. Also noteworthy is RJ’s love of video games, which he can’t play while having his own adventures.

This gleefully macabre tale hints at a series with great potential.

Pub Date: April 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-253849-7

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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