Not the refreshing plunge it would like to be.

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DEAD RIVER

While most people who visit the Dead River hear the white noise of rushing water, 17-year-old Kiandra Levesque hears the voices of people the river has claimed.

She’s been kept away from water ever since her mother committed suicide by walking into the Delaware River 10 years earlier. Angry at this abandonment, she wants to prove to herself that she has left her mother behind, so she sneaks away with her boyfriend for a camping and rafting trip in rural Maine. When she encounters the spirit of a boy killed in the 1930s, Kia learns that she has magical powers and that she might be able to see her mother again—but that she must cross the river from life to death to do so. Balog starts her story in media res, allowing narrator Kiandra to introduce herself slowly, by revealing her past. There’s a trick to keeping the narrator mostly unnamed and identified only by fears for the first several pages, and unfortunately, the author doesn’t quite carry it off. Despite her heavy and often articulated misery, Kiandra comes across as a shallow character: clear, fast-moving and trickling downstream before making an impact. The inevitable love triangle feels forced, and the resolution stretches the bounds of the narrative rules, but at least it assures there’s no loose threads for a sequel. The secondary characters are oxbow lakes, extraneous pieces cut off from the main flow and leading nowhere.

Not the refreshing plunge it would like to be. (Paranormal thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-74158-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A lackluster take on a well-worn trope.

THE TWIN

After a family tragedy, 16-year-old Ivy Mason hopes to reconnect with her aloof identical twin sister, Iris—but Iris has other plans.

When Ivy’s parents divorced 10 years ago, Ivy stayed with her father while Iris went to live with their mother. When their mother dies after falling off a bridge while jogging, Iris comes to live with Ivy and their father. Narrator Ivy is reeling (she even goes to therapy), but Iris seems strangely detached, only coming to life when Ivy introduces her to her best friends, Haley and Sophie, and her quarterback boyfriend, Ty. However, Ivy isn’t thrilled when Iris wants to change her class schedule to match hers, and it’s not long before Iris befriends Ivy’s besties and even makes plans with them that don’t include Ivy. Iris even joins the swim team where Ivy is a star swimmer. As Iris’ strange behavior escalates, Ivy starts to suspect that their mother’s death might not have been an accident. Is Iris up to no good, or is Ivy just paranoid? In the end, readers may not care. There are few surprises to be found in a narrative populated by paper-thin characters stuck fast in a derivative plot. Even a jarring final twist can’t save this one. Most characters seem to be white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters.

A lackluster take on a well-worn trope. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12496-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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