An apocalyptic series with an evangelical subtext kicks off with this high-octane thrill ride. Five pre-teens were best friends once, sharing a mystical bond transcending race and class. But that was seven years ago, before something horrible happened: something that they can’t remember, that tore them apart, that sent them drifting into crime, drugs and despair; something that is now stalking their nightmares, drawing them back together to become embroiled in an ancient battle between angels of light and darkness. The plot is cleverly constructed with short chapters dissolving present and past, creating a phantasmagoric effect that constantly ratchets up the adrenaline level. While the heroes are sympathetic and fundamentally decent, they are presented with a graphic realism uncommon in Christian fiction and seem far older than their supposed years. The large cast, many sporting sound-alike or exotic names, can be confusing, and it’s not quite clear exactly what happens at the climax beyond a busload of setup for future books. Still, the combination of vivid cinematic detail, gritty adolescent angst and spectacular supernatural kickassery should prove irresistible. (Horror. YA)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-310-71433-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Zondervan

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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An intriguing genre mashup that struggles to successfully fuse its various parts but delivers some strong adrenaline rushes.


A debut YA novel blends Christianity, high school misfits, and classic spy thriller tropes.

Despite his efforts to fly under the radar to avoid bullies and teachers, Chris Short forges an unlikely friendship with Max Clever—the mysterious new student who can “outrun, outkick, and outmaneuver any kid in school.” Max tells Chris that his father recently died. Then Chris visits Max’s home, where he learns that his friend’s caretaker, Vicky, has left town. Deciding that he can trust Chris, whose “mother died of cancer three years ago,” Max reveals that he is more than capable of taking care of himself. His father was training this 15-year-old to be a superspy: Max speaks five languages, pilots planes, knows martial arts, and owns a supercomputer named Claire. Soon Max and Chris’ fishing trips turn into cross-country voyages to bring down an enigmatic terrorist organization called the Black Hand. The boys find themselves intercepting secret messages and dodging paid assassins in order to foil large-scale attacks while still making it back in time for class. Just as it seems things are getting out of control for Chris, Vicky returns with new truths about where Max came from and a dangerous new problem that involves Chris’ family and makes the Shorts question their beliefs. Greely drops his two teenage characters in setups pulled straight out of an Ian Fleming thriller, including ski lodges, missile silos, and high-tech training simulators. It’s a fun combination, but the more curious addition is a religious angle coming from Chris’ Christian faith. Spies and religion don’t often mix, and Chris’ attempt to convert an assassin on his deathbed and some seemingly preordained shared nightmares feel like elements out of a completely different story rather than intriguing character development. At the same time, the danger and urgency of the Black Hand fizzle somewhat disappointingly with a sudden shift toward Max’s past and a child trafficking subplot. But in this tale, both boys grapple with the loss of a parent, which makes them relatable and sympathetic between the fast-paced action sequences that should excite YA readers.

An intriguing genre mashup that struggles to successfully fuse its various parts but delivers some strong adrenaline rushes.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4808-6777-2

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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Recommended for those who want more than just a romance—or for readers who have an innate dislike for slender, graceful...


As Harley begins dating one of a group of ballerinas, he starts to become suspicious of the potentially threatening behavior of the rest.

Back from his first year of college, he’s on the rebound from the sad ending of his lifelong friendship and recent romantic relationship with Mairin, who has now gotten pregnant by and is about to marry an unsavory and rough-cut local. Harley’s initially thrilled—and stunned—to be dating the graceful and lovely Cassandra; there has been a vast gulf between town residents and the sophisticated ballerinas at Ocean Watch, the local, prestigious ballet academy. The tragic and perhaps not accidental death of a young man at the school several years ago has created an even wider divide. After Cassandra is given the starring role in Giselle, Harley senses both a change in her behavior and an uncomfortable parallel between those disturbing ballerinas and the equally creepy, classic ballet. With Mairin’s life spiraling downward, Harley discovers that the unpredictable Cassandra is an inadequate and maybe even dangerous substitute. The narrative moves believably from predictable romance to somewhat chilling horror; it takes too long for fans of that genre but does add spice to the tale.

Recommended for those who want more than just a romance—or for readers who have an innate dislike for slender, graceful young women with long legs and necks and great posture . (Suspense. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4405-8279-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Merit Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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