It’ll take a sturdy reader not to keep flinching—or put this exercise in sensation down altogether.

READ REVIEW

THE MERCILESS

From the Merciless series , Vol. 1

Mean Girls with an occult twist.

Military kid Sofia Flores is used to moving around and always being on the outside, so she’s happy to be embraced by the queen bees in her new high school in tiny Friend, Mississippi. She is a little sorry that Riley and her posse seem to have it in for friendly Brooklyn, but she goes along with them. Though she’s been raised an unbeliever, her beloved grandmother, who lives with Sofia and her mom, is a devout Catholic; something in her responds when Riley decides to “save” her, baptizing her in the girls’ room. What she sees at a party sets off a horrific series of events that ends with maimed and dead teenagers. The bulk of the book takes place in a secret hideout in an abandoned development, and it is there that the girls viciously, bloodily confront Brooklyn, the proceedings causing Sofia to question all her moral certainties (and her immediate survival). The book comes with a “for mature audiences only” label, and refreshingly, this is not a warning about sex but about protracted, unrelenting and graphically described violence. Vega works in the occult element coyly, giving readers and Sofia only glimpses of what may or may not be supernatural evil—but there’s plenty of lovingly described, human-inflicted evil to keep strong-stomached readers occupied.

It’ll take a sturdy reader not to keep flinching—or put this exercise in sensation down altogether. (Horror. 16-18)

Pub Date: June 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59514-7226

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

WATCH OVER ME

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Much like building a bridge stone by stone, this read requires painstaking effort and patience.

BRIDGE OF CLAY

Years after the death of their mother, the fourth son in an Australian family of five boys reconnects with his estranged father.

Matthew Dunbar dug up the old TW, the typewriter his father buried (along with a dog and a snake) in the backyard of his childhood home. He searched for it in order to tell the story of the family’s past, a story about his mother, who escaped from Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall; about his father, who abandoned them all after their mother’s death; about his brother Clay, who built a bridge to reunite their family; and about a mule named Achilles. Zusak (The Book Thief, 2006, etc.) weaves a complex narrative winding through flashbacks. His prose is thick with metaphor and heavy with allusions to Homer’s epics. The story romanticizes Matthew and his brothers’ often violent and sometimes homophobic expressions of their cisgender, heterosexual masculinity with reflections unsettlingly reminiscent of a “boys will be boys” attitude. Women in the book primarily play the roles of love interests, mothers, or (in the case of their neighbor) someone to marvel at the Dunbar boys and give them jars to open. The characters are all presumably white.

Much like building a bridge stone by stone, this read requires painstaking effort and patience. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984830-15-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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