Not the refreshing plunge it would like to be.

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 layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in.

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE

A young woman’s return to her monied boarding school is haunted by the trauma of her girlfriend’s recent death and the school’s rumored history involving witchcraft in this contemporary thriller.

Felicity Morrow’s senior year was cut short after her girlfriend Alex died, and her decision to return to the Dalloway School because “being friendless at Dalloway was better than being friendless anywhere else” makes clear her feelings of isolation. It’s seemingly inevitable that she’ll be drawn into the orbit of infamous new student Ellis Haley, who, despite her young age, has already written a Pulitzer-winning novel. Amid a fantastical, darkly atmospheric haze of cigarette smoke and hard alcohol, Felicity agrees to assist Ellis in her research about the Dalloway Five, girls whose gruesome deaths centuries earlier at the school are shrouded in mystery and who were the subject of her own abandoned senior thesis. Richly imagined queer characters, including Ellis’ older nonbinary sibling, Quinn, are the stars of this story, which incrementally reveals truths about Alex’s death as it winds the bond between Felicity and Ellis ever tighter, spinning a tale rife with literary references, magnetic romance, and occasionally melodramatic but menacing gothic tropes out to its end. The protagonists are cued White; there is ethnic diversity in secondary and background characters.

A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30582-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A promising premise that doesn’t quite deliver.

GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST

An abandoned carnival on an island connected to a British seaside town by a milelong pier is the setting for this atmospheric thriller.

Ava receives an invitation to go to Portgrave Pier at 8 p.m.—followed by the ominous question, can you keep a secret? When she arrives, she finds that she was not the only person to receive such a note. In addition, each invitation contains a seemingly innocuous photo that relates to something the recipient is hiding. Ava suspects this is a blackmail scheme, but who could be behind it: Esme the ice queen, bad boy Noah, or even her best friend, Jolie? The targets end up on the island, Allhallows Rock, and then the pier collapses, leaving them stranded with one of their number lying injured on the rocks. Ava feels time playing tricks on her while others are saying creepy, nonsensical things. Little does the group know that they are all playing a deadly game masterminded by Whispers, the man in the mirrors, who will torment the group with their secrets until they give in. The third-person narrative centers on Ava and nine other teens. Despite the interesting concept, creepy villain, and eerie setting, the large number of underdeveloped characters makes the story difficult to follow. However, the sizable cast offers an opportunity for some discussion of struggles like substance abuse, date rape, and disordered eating. Olive-skinned Ava has wavy dark hair; there is some ethnic diversity among the other characters.

A promising premise that doesn’t quite deliver. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72824-541-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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