A twisted, engrossing tale of relationships intermingling to disaster.

A girl struggles to understand her boyfriend’s suicide—or to discover if it really was a suicide.

For years, Hailey’s life has revolved around the charismatic stepbrothers across the street. Popular, handsome Kane’s her childhood best friend—they lost their virginity together as fumbling, awkward 15-year-olds. Then there’s his equally charismatic stepbrother—brilliant, talented, devout Declan—a gorgeous multiracial boy (Hailey fetishizes his ethnically ambiguous features). Told from Hailey’s point of view, the story jumps back and forth between the present—a year after Declan’s death—and flashbacks to her intense, romantic relationship with Declan and the lead-up to his death. Hailey, whose life has fallen to pieces since that night (after a lengthy in-patient stay, she’s self-harming and drinking), suffers from what her therapist calls selective retention, her brain refusing to process painful memories as suicide runs so counter to the Declan she knew. Then Declan’s mother finds a strange photograph and threatening message among his things. Soon, Hailey’s seeing hints of something suspicious everywhere she turns. Desperate, Hailey pushes hard, slowly unraveling relationships and secrets in her own memories. The vividly-drawn characters are consumed by the drama of their powerful feelings. The truth she finally finds is downright chilling. Most characters default to white.

A twisted, engrossing tale of relationships intermingling to disaster. (Thriller/mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7904-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019


From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023


Only marginally intriguing.

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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