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


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 atmospheric and creepy page-turner.


Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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


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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