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

THE DUMPSTER CLUB

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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A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status.

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FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

Testing the strength of family bonds is never easy—and lies make it even harder.

Daunis is trying to balance her two communities: The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, teen is constantly adapting, whether she is with her Anishinaabe father’s side of the family, the Firekeepers, or the Fontaines, her White mother’s wealthy relatives. She has grand plans for her future, as she wants to become a doctor, but has decided to defer her plans to go away for college because her maternal grandmother is recovering from a stroke. Daunis spends her free time playing hockey with her Firekeeper half brother, Levi, but tragedy strikes, and she discovers someone is selling a dangerous new form of meth—and the bodies are piling up. While trying to figure out who is behind this, Daunis pulls away from her family, covering up where she has been and what she has been doing. While dealing with tough topics like rape, drugs, racism, and death, this book balances the darkness with Ojibwe cultural texture and well-crafted characters. Daunis is a three-dimensional, realistically imperfect girl trying her best to handle everything happening around her. The first-person narration reveals her internal monologue, allowing readers to learn what’s going on in her head as she encounters anti-Indian bias and deals with grief.

A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76656-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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

THE LAKE

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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