A gently horrid reminder that some ghosts can be very real.

THE HAUNTED

Further misfortune befalls a girl who can’t escape her ghosts.

Being the new girl in Drearford, New York, means heaps of unwanted attention for Hendricks Becker-O’Malley, who’d much rather begin anew with a clean slate. Her traumatic past was the main reason behind her family’s relocation to the small town, with its dreary gray skies and sinister secrets. However, her new home—Drearford’s derelict Steele House—offers no comfort. The disturbances start small: the usual moans and groans of an old house, a creepy doll singing of its own accord, devious laughter from another room. At first, Hendricks’ past shrouds her in self-doubt fueled by shame. But then she meets Eddie Ruiz, a damaged boy who lost an older brother and younger sister to Steele House’s cursed, evil spirits. Together the pair plan to vanquish the ghosts, attempting a misguided cleansing ritual in the process. As Hendricks and Eddie develop a close bond, Steele House launches its final onslaught. Vega’s (The Merciless IV: Last Rites, 2018, etc.) take on the haunted house subgenre features an eclectic, well-fitted mix of supernatural spookiness and gore. Overall, the novel doesn’t rise above its creaky cliché-riddled plot, but the author excels at portraying the aftermath of a toxic, abusive relationship from Hendricks’ perspective. Though Hendricks is assumed white, the supporting cast offers some diversity.

A gently horrid reminder that some ghosts can be very real. (Horror. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-48146-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE WAY I USED TO BE

In the three years following Eden’s brutal rape by her brother’s best friend, Kevin, she descends into anger, isolation, and promiscuity.

Eden’s silence about the assault is cemented by both Kevin’s confident assurance that if she tells anyone, “No one will ever believe you. You know that. No one. Not ever,” and a chillingly believable death threat. For the remainder of Eden’s freshman year, she withdraws from her family and becomes increasingly full of hatred for Kevin and the world she feels failed to protect her. But when a friend mentions that she’s “reinventing” herself, Eden embarks on a hopeful plan to do the same. She begins her sophomore year with new clothes and friendly smiles for her fellow students, which attract the romantic attentions of a kind senior athlete. But, bizarrely, Kevin’s younger sister goes on a smear campaign to label Eden a “totally slutty disgusting whore,” which sends Eden back toward self-destruction. Eden narrates in a tightly focused present tense how she withdraws again from nearly everyone and attempts to find comfort (or at least oblivion) through a series of nearly anonymous sexual encounters. This self-centeredness makes her relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped and even puzzling at times. Absent ethnic and cultural markers, Eden and her family and classmates are likely default white.

Eden’s emotionally raw narration is compelling despite its solipsism. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4935-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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