Familiar mythical creatures bolster this dark, ongoing adventure.

THE MEDUSA DEEP

A Canadian teen works to stop malevolent extraterrestrials from taking over Earth in this YA sequel to Lee’s H.P. Lovecraft–inspired The Midnight Games(2016).

Hamilton, Ontario, is still reeling months after terrifying beasts tried passing through a wormhole and a mysterious airship blasted the threat back to its own realm. Nate Silva, determined to track down that airship, called Sorcerer, treks through Hamilton’s North End during a heavy snowstorm. He comes across a rusty warehouse, and after he enters it, he learns that he’s actually inside Sorcerer—and that it’s about to take flight. This amazing craft and its crew have traversed time and space in a long-running battle against the Great Old Ones, a group of creatures plotting to colonize Earth. But humankind’s next threat won’t come from the sky; it turns out that the evil Nyarlathotep is already here, deep in the Pacific Ocean, ready to rise to the surface. Soon, Nate teams up with his grandfather, whom he’s never met before. The 80-something man, decades ago, survived a harrowing encounter at sea with something diabolical, and he may be the only one who can find its “underwater grave.” Lee enhances his novel with references to the Lovecraft mythos, although these don’t monopolize the narrative. Menaces include winged, clawed beasts called thrals and a creepy Cthulhu-worshipping cult (a remnant of the series’ first installment). However, there are other elements that smoothly tie into real-world events, including World War II, and a surprising passenger appears on Sorcerer, as well. Nate’s no-nonsense attitude befits a worthy hero, but Lee gives him just enough snarkiness to make him a believable teenager. The author further invigorates this sequel with vibrant detail, from the sounds of Sorcerer(“the airship sighed and shuddered like a huge beast with a broken heart”) to the description of the North End’s abandoned, dilapidated factories inhabiting “a Chernobyl-like wasteland.” A smashing cliffhanger sets up a potential third installment.

Familiar mythical creatures bolster this dark, ongoing adventure.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-989496-31-2

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Poplar Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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