Pretty gross but pretty great.

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

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An inspiring, powerful tale of belonging.

CAZADORA

From the Wolves of No World series , Vol. 2

The follow-up to Lobizona (2020) sees its protagonist’s fight for equality and acceptance reach new heights.

After the events of the first book, Manu and her friends flee their magical school and are on the run to avoid the Cazadores who aim to capture anyone who doesn’t conform to the stringent gender binary laws of their world. Manu, as the first ever known female werewolf and a Septimus/human hybrid to boot, could lose her life if she’s discovered. Illegal in both worlds, Manu’s only chance is to find the Coven, a legendary underground movement of outcasts who she hopes will welcome them with open arms. Once she meets the people of the Coven, Manu encounters a world full of Septimus who are willing to risk anything for change. But how far is Manu willing to go? In this effervescent sequel full of magic and beautiful imagery, Manu learns to reclaim her own narrative and, together with her lovable found family, including misfits Saysa and Cata as well as boyfriend Tiago, stake out a place in the world where she belongs. Refreshingly, Manu and her friends are not presented as uniquely positioned to change the world: They join a multigenerational, ongoing fight against oppression that aims to give voice to the nonconforming voiceless. All characters are Argentine, with a variety of skin tones, gender identities, and sexualities.

An inspiring, powerful tale of belonging. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23915-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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