A clever, fast-moving tale involving vampires, witches, and angst-y teens.

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DARK SECRET

From the Darkhaven Saga series , Vol. 1

A witch raised to kill vampires becomes one in this YA fantasy novel.

Darkhaven is a lovely village set between the woods and the sea, though it does have a pesky vampire problem. That’s why 17-year-old spirit witch Ava López must stand guard over her neighbors—magical and ordinary alike. In this, she follows in the footsteps of her father, who sacrificed his life to save Ava and her mother. Ava fears that a terrible danger will befall her coven, though her mother refuses to listen to her. One night, while hunting vampires at the cemetery with her friend Liv, she is accidentally bitten by one. They kill it, but Ava allows another vampire to escape. Her mother manages to heal her, but it is a close call. When a group of vampires interrupts her coven’s full moon ritual, Ava attacks and is bitten again. In the confusion of the battle, Ava requests that another vampire—the one she let flee—save her from death by allowing her to drink his blood. Now a vampire herself, Ava is exiled from her coven and is forced to seek refuge among the very enemies she was raised to fear: “Shutting my eyes, I swallow hard as my throat begins to close. Its dryness is painful, scratchy. When I open my eyes again, my fangs are exposed, and I am just steps behind the humans. I don’t know how I got there, and I don’t care. An arm’s length is all that separates them from death, from me.” Her savior is Jasik, a vampire who becomes her guide through the world of his kind. But as she spends more time among them, Ava realizes that her witches have not been completely honest about the vampires. They aren’t wanton murderers, for example. They are capable of love. Which makes her wonder: What other lies have the witches told her? In this series opener, Rose (Truth We Bear, 2019, etc.) offers a polished version of the urgent, accessible prose readers of contemporary YA fantasy will be extremely familiar with. At one point, Ava observes: “He offers a hearty laugh, and I smile. In the last day and a half, I’ve only seen concern from him. It’s nice to see him relax around me. I’m sure it’s not easy. It’s hard for me to lower my walls around vampires, but Jasik makes it pretty easy. I’m sure it’s the sire bond, but I’m a little grateful.” The switch from witch to vampire shrewdly mirrors Ava’s transition to adulthood, illustrating the difficulties she faces bridging the world she was born into and the one that she has (at least in part) chosen for herself. It’s a short read at just over 160 pages, and the pace never lets up. Future volumes in the Darkhaven saga will continue Ava’s adventures among the vampires, and those readers who love the Twilight series and its many derivatives will likely enjoy this capable (if not altogether original) addition to the genre.

A clever, fast-moving tale involving vampires, witches, and angst-y teens.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-64263-165-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Waterhouse Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2020

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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