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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A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in.

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE

A young woman’s return to her monied boarding school is haunted by the trauma of her girlfriend’s recent death and the school’s rumored history involving witchcraft in this contemporary thriller.

Felicity Morrow’s senior year was cut short after her girlfriend Alex died, and her decision to return to the Dalloway School because “being friendless at Dalloway was better than being friendless anywhere else” makes clear her feelings of isolation. It’s seemingly inevitable that she’ll be drawn into the orbit of infamous new student Ellis Haley, who, despite her young age, has already written a Pulitzer-winning novel. Amid a fantastical, darkly atmospheric haze of cigarette smoke and hard alcohol, Felicity agrees to assist Ellis in her research about the Dalloway Five, girls whose gruesome deaths centuries earlier at the school are shrouded in mystery and who were the subject of her own abandoned senior thesis. Richly imagined queer characters, including Ellis’ older nonbinary sibling, Quinn, are the stars of this story, which incrementally reveals truths about Alex’s death as it winds the bond between Felicity and Ellis ever tighter, spinning a tale rife with literary references, magnetic romance, and occasionally melodramatic but menacing gothic tropes out to its end. The protagonists are cued White; there is ethnic diversity in secondary and background characters.

A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30582-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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