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


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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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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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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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

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A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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