A Midwestern gothic family saga that will hook readers—or scare them away.

SCOWLER

A meteor shower forms the backdrop for a teen boy's Donnie Darko–like nightmare in 1981 small-town Iowa.

Haunted by his past, 19-year-old Ry Burke strives to survive on a slowly deteriorating Midwestern farm with his mother and his precocious sister. Nine years before, Ry took a baseball bat and bashed in the face of his aggressive, abusive father, Marvin, after he discovered his dad had sewn his mother’s naked body into the sheets of their bed. His subsequent ordeals are grisly and bloody. He's aided by three totemic objects that he calls the Unnamed Three: a blue teddy bear named Mr. Furrington, a statuette of Jesus Christ, and an antique wooden doll with sunken eyes and metal insides that he calls Scowler. All three make a timely return to the Burke household on the eve of a meteor shower to defeat his father, who has broken out of prison and threatens their family once again. Weird? Yes. Compelling? Mostly. Kraus' latest will challenge both readers' patience and their ability to suspend disbelief as they follow Ry through the harrowing evening and following few days. The plot walks the line between believable and over-the-top, and the devoted—sometimes distractingly so—attention to detail may thrill critics but underwhelm teens.

A Midwestern gothic family saga that will hook readers—or scare them away. (Horror. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-74309-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

FIVE FEET APART

A hospital is an unlikely place for first love, but for two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who have a history of extended stays, it proves to be a realistic yet difficult backdrop.

Stella is a high school senior who is dedicated to her CF treatments while Will, a talented artist, is home-schooled and anticipating his 18th birthday, when he will be free to make his own medical decisions. Despite rocky first impressions, Stella and Will make a deal—Will must stick to his treatment regimen, and in return, Stella will model for him while he draws her portrait. This leads to romance, but the combination of CF and Will’s infection with B. cepacia requires that he must stay several feet away from Stella, making physical touch an impossibility. Stella eventually understands why living on the edge can be freeing, and Will begins taking his treatment regimen seriously—leading to their only bit of meaningful development. The novel is written in alternating chapters, creating a few unexpected plot developments, but much of it is predictable and forgettable due to thin characterization. All characters are presumed white except for gay, Colombian CF patient Poe, whose story arc fulfills tired stereotypical tropes and who seems to function mostly as a catalyst for Stella’s growth.

The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3733-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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This royal romp comes together for a strong finish.

TOKYO EVER AFTER

A Japanese American teen searches for her father—who turns out to be the crown prince of Japan.

Kind and “remarkably unremarkable,” Izumi Tanaka enjoys the support of her single mother and high school friends in her hometown of Mount Shasta, California. Her grades are “subpar at best,” and she’s been accepted into decent, but not exclusive, colleges. She acknowledges that her love of Real Housewives and dabbling in baking, while relatable, are not exceptional. After searching for her father and discovering the shocking news of his identity, Izumi is invited to Japan to stay with the royal family for two weeks. Dubbed the Lost Butterfly princess, she is swept up in royal life, complete with all its intrigue. The romance of being a princess—complete with a hot, young bodyguard, Akio—quickly dissipates as tabloids, cultural differences, and a serious blunder at the Japanese prime minister’s wedding take their toll. While the action-packed plot keeps pages turning, inconsistencies in Izumi’s voice are distracting, and her character development lacks cohesion. More slow-building tension would have given her romantic encounters with Akio a bigger payoff. However, the novel hits its stride in the second half as Izumi returns to the States and focuses on her personal growth and evolving relationships with each of her parents, developments that are thoughtfully fleshed out.

This royal romp comes together for a strong finish. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76660-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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