Pretty gross but pretty great.

READ REVIEW

THE TOWN BUILT ON SORROW

A Midwestern town’s dark past meets its grisly present.

The family of sassy, journalism-inclined, 16-year-old Harper Spurling are the descendants of her hometown of Hawthorn’s founders. The white teen runs track, loves hanging out with her friends, refers to her parents as “The Mom” and “The Dad,” and adores her best friend, Eva Alvarez, who is a mixed-race (Mexican and black) party girl. When her history teacher assigns the class to read the diary of one of the town founder’s daughters, Harper becomes entranced by her story, wondering why it ends so abruptly. Enter mysterious, Nordic, white Olav Helle, who also attends Harper’s high school. He’s also seemingly touched by the magic of the town and its surrounding woods. It also compels him to off members of the local population using various gruesome tactics; from the get-go readers know he is the town’s Tender Heart Killer. Oppegaard pens an intense, page-turning, often harrowing nail-biter that may leave readers with stomachaches as they move through the story, alternating between Harper and Olav. Some plot parts may feel stretched, but the magic is subtle enough to walk the delicate line between what could be hallucination or the supernatural otherworld. The tension that builds toward the eventual meeting of Olav and Harper, however, is very real, and that’s what will keep readers hooked until the end.

Pretty gross but pretty great. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63583-006-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A lackluster take on a well-worn trope.

THE TWIN

After a family tragedy, 16-year-old Ivy Mason hopes to reconnect with her aloof identical twin sister, Iris—but Iris has other plans.

When Ivy’s parents divorced 10 years ago, Ivy stayed with her father while Iris went to live with their mother. When their mother dies after falling off a bridge while jogging, Iris comes to live with Ivy and their father. Narrator Ivy is reeling (she even goes to therapy), but Iris seems strangely detached, only coming to life when Ivy introduces her to her best friends, Haley and Sophie, and her quarterback boyfriend, Ty. However, Ivy isn’t thrilled when Iris wants to change her class schedule to match hers, and it’s not long before Iris befriends Ivy’s besties and even makes plans with them that don’t include Ivy. Iris even joins the swim team where Ivy is a star swimmer. As Iris’ strange behavior escalates, Ivy starts to suspect that their mother’s death might not have been an accident. Is Iris up to no good, or is Ivy just paranoid? In the end, readers may not care. There are few surprises to be found in a narrative populated by paper-thin characters stuck fast in a derivative plot. Even a jarring final twist can’t save this one. Most characters seem to be white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters.

A lackluster take on a well-worn trope. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12496-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

An intimate portrait of female friendship laced with literal and metaphorical magic.

WHEN WE WERE MAGIC

Getting through high school requires more than a little bit of magic.

On prom night, when Alexis accidentally kills Josh Harper, she panics and summons her five best friends—Paulie, Roya, Iris, Marcelina, and Maryam—for help. Alexis knows she can rely on them, not only because of their unshakeable friendship, but because of what they have in common: the ability to do magic. Attempting to make things right, the girls cast a spell but are left with a disconnected collection of Josh’s body parts, including a cold, glassy version of his heart. They divide them up and agree to dispose of what is left of Josh, piece by piece. Alexis insists on witnessing each body-part-releasing ceremony, in the process exploring her bonds with her friends—and, in one case, feelings that go far beyond friendship. But as their relationships strengthen, the spell takes its toll: Every time they lose a body part, the girls lose something too, forcing them to rethink how they define themselves and each other. This work of speculative fiction is a profoundly thoughtful exploration of female friendship, love, growth, and identity. The fully realized characters are diverse in ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity. While the final two-thirds of the book are beautifully paced, balancing introspection and character development with plot, the first third at times feels weighed down by explanation and backstory.

An intimate portrait of female friendship laced with literal and metaphorical magic. (Speculative fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3287-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more