Remarkable story of adolescence with convincing characters and a bit of mystery.


A West Coast teen, shaken by his parents’ split, finds solace in notes and literary gifts from an anonymous friend in Craddock’s YA tale.

Josh Reece idolized his mother, a writer who shares her love of books with her son. But their relationship falters when Mom seemingly chooses her work over the family. Moving into an apartment with his father and his little sister, Josh has trouble adjusting to this altered life. As the new kid in school, he meets a genial soul in pink-haired Teagan Carter. Unfortunately, Josh also drifts toward a popular, rich kid who takes advantage of the much brighter Josh. This culminates in someone accusing the teen of a crime he didn’t commit. Meanwhile, Josh comes across a crate of books behind a dumpster near his apartment. He eventually reads them; some include notes written to Josh and are signed “Reader.” As he rediscovers his fondness for relatable literary characters, like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Josh wants to know who Reader is. Is it his estranged mother or someone else who’s helping the teenager cope? Craddock’s coming-of-age novel stars an appealing, believably flawed protagonist. For example, Josh sometimes takes his anger out on the wrong people, like his kid sister. The author tackles weighty issues—racism, White privilege, and child abuse. On the lighter side are Josh and Teagan’s scenes. The two bond quickly, and romance seems inevitable. The conversational tone is courtesy of Josh’s first-person perspective. Though it’s not difficult to deduce Reader’s identity, the ultimate reveal segues into a wonderful, bittersweet final act.

Remarkable story of adolescence with convincing characters and a bit of mystery. (author bio, acknowledgements, author’s note)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-66-996748-2

Page Count: 395

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Vivid, chilling, and important.


Two 18-year-olds with traumatic pasts become entangled in a high-stakes manhunt for a serial killer targeting teenagers.

Emma Lewis isn’t your average psychology undergrad (and not just because she has a buzz cut). Two and a half years ago, she escaped a serial killer’s clutches and then helped the authorities apprehend him. Now a student at Ohio State, she’s been recruited for her unique qualifications by an agent in the FBI’s Behavioral Science department to spend the summer interviewing juvenile offenders. Alongside trainee Travis Bell, whose late father was killed while apprehending one of their subjects, Emma reluctantly ventures into the minds of teenage killers—and must confront her own past when one of the subjects offers unexpected insight into the motives of a new killer known as the Butcher. Set in the early 1980s, narrated in present tense, and told through Emma’s perspective as well as others’ (including the Butcher’s), the tightly plotted story moves inexorably forward with shocking twists alongside clear, applicable descriptions of the cognitive behavioral strategies Emma uses to navigate her PTSD. The narrative is critical of law enforcement work, emphasizing its psychological toll, and the '80s cultural references are handled with a light touch. Emma is white while Travis is cued as biracial (Mexican American and white); although most secondary characters appear white, two key figures are people of color.

Vivid, chilling, and important. (author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49783-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.


Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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