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

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, devastating, and compelling portrayal of life after insurmountable loss.

LITTLE UNIVERSES

Hannah and Mae Winters’ comfortable lives plunge into chaos in the aftermath of the tsunami in Malaysia that kills their parents while they are on vacation.

As high school seniors the sisters are forced to start their lives over in Boston with their maternal Aunt Nora, leaving behind their life in LA. A recovering addict, Hannah finds herself succumbing to pills while Mae, who is adopted, struggles to come to terms with not knowing her ethnic heritage in a family where their maternal Greek heritage is a critical part of their identity. After moving to Boston, Hannah finds comfort in classmate Drew Nolan while Mae meets MIT student Ben Tamura, who shares her passion for science. The story is narrated from the perspectives of both Hannah and Mae. Demetrios (Bad Romance, 2018, etc.) immerses the reader in Mae's and Hannah’s worlds with aplomb and clarity, astutely capturing the precariousness of addiction and the spiral journey of recovery. Heavy themes—abortion, mental health, and more—are handled with care and candor. Readers will find themselves pulled into the world of each sister and her grief, witnessing the gutting effects of addiction and depression. Demetrios has struck a fine balance between science and New Age faith, hopelessness and hope, in her respectful portrayal of the sisters' differences. Most major characters are white; Ben is Japanese American.

An unflinching, devastating, and compelling portrayal of life after insurmountable loss. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22279-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Eerie and compelling. Fast track it to the top of the TBR pile.

THE GOOD DEMON

Not all demons are bad. Are they?

Set during an oppressively hot, humid summer in the deep American South, the narrative opens one month after the local reverend delivers 16-year-old Clare from evil. The thing no one understands is that She wasn’t evil. She was Clare’s best friend, her Only, and they were going to be together forever. Without Her, Clare feels unbearably alone, like there is a “long dark hallway” inside her. The discovery of a cryptic note in Her handwriting sets Clare on the path to getting Her back. The note contains three mysterious items: “Be nice to him / June 20 / Remember the stories.” As Clare develops feelings for the sheltered teenage son of the preacher who exorcised Her, she discovers something sinister simmering just under the surface of her small town. Something ancient, powerful, and vile, leading to the reclusive One Wish Man. Will he help Clare—and at what price? How far is she willing to go to get Her back? Evocative language will grab readers by the throat and forge an unforgiving connection to Clare’s despair and desperation. The gorgeous black-and-white artwork centered on mysterious symbols has a palpable mysticism about it. No mention of diversity implies a white default.

Eerie and compelling. Fast track it to the top of the TBR pile. (Horror. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3127-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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