A pack of tasty bubble gum that one should open without hesitation.

WONDER RUSH

Brainwashed teens commit crimes on behalf of a shadowy organization in McKeon’s debut YA thriller.

High school student Wendy Lockheart isn’t quite feeling like herself, as she hasn’t killed anyone in almost two and a half weeks—but that’s quickly remedied when she poisons a predatory pedophile. It’s soon revealed that she’s a highly trained assassin who works for a shady organization known as “the agency.” Soon Wendy, an orphan, will be spirited off to another foster home with a new name, a new identity, and a new victim; she receives packs of Wonder Rush Happy Funtime Bubblegum with instructions about her targets. She’s not thrilled about leaving, because things were beginning to click with her new pal, Amaya, a free-spirited teen anarchist. The agency requires its network of killer teens to blend in, remain quiet, and forgo personal relationships. But as Wendy matures, she begins to think that murder and secrecy aren’t for her, but she knows that her handlers aren’t afraid to use violence to keep their charges in line. Wendy’s next assignment prompts her to go rogue and expose the agency—and uncover her own identity. To her surprise, she finds she’s not the only disgruntled employee. Over the course of McKeon’s novel, Wendy sloughs off violent encounters with blithe wisecracks and a sense of aplomb that’s worthy of 007, but she’s also effectively shown to have the ability to inflict serious bodily damage—even if it’s not on the official schedule. However, she encounters so many covert operatives (good and bad) that readers can’t help but get the impression that coincidence is an important theme of the novel. McKeon gives an intriguing hint of things to come when Wendy tells her foster brother, who likes coloring books, that “the best things in life happen outside the lines.” Overall, the story rewards attention, as it not only shows how the agency taught Wendy tenacity and problem-solving, but also how she he taught herself mercy—and how she uses them all to get answers.

A pack of tasty bubble gum that one should open without hesitation.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73713-250-9

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Hush Moss Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2021

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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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