THE SECRETS WE KEEP

Too many flaws to make it worthy of precious reading time.

Secrets and lies and guilt and shame choke this mild thriller.

Autistic teen Kit is found dead after disappearing from an end-of-school celebration. Narrator Clem was the last to see Kit alive and blames herself for his death—they were members of a Circle of Friends, a middle school group whose mission was to support Kit. Instead of keeping an eye on Kit in the noisy dark of the party, she was staring at her crush. Clem’s not the only one hiding something. Her best friend, Ellie, is acting suspicious, and Clem’s childhood pal Jake has a secret, too: he brought Kit to the party and blames himself for the outcome of that fateful night. Together, Clem and Jake set out to locate anyone else who saw Kit during his last moments in order to exonerate themselves. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t hold together. One-dimensional parents, the whimsical treatment of autism (Kit’s mother refers to him as “inspiring,” and Clem wants Kit to be the theme of the theater class revue), the ease with which Clem forgives blackmailer Ellie for her trespasses, and Ellie’s excuse-making for her volatile boyfriend mar what could have been an intriguing read. Race is not mentioned, implying that the characters are white.

Too many flaws to make it worthy of precious reading time. (Mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4597-3729-7

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

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

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. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

THE LAKE

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Close Quickview