A thoroughly enjoyable contemporary Gothic.

BAD BLOOD

Grappling with self-harm, a white teen confronts connections to a dark and distant past, family secrets, and magic.

Heather MacNair is eagerly compliant in order to win release from in-patient treatment for self-harm so she can visit her father’s family in Scotland as she does every summer and see her Scottish friends. But the treatment hasn’t been successful—she’s still compelled to cut the first chance she gets, and she has vivid nightmares of twin sisters in 1600s Edinburgh. Despite Heather’s mother’s deep reservations, Heather flies off to Scotland—where she discovers her beloved aunt has become sick and her grandmother is losing herself to dementia. The matter-of-fact, daily-life treatment of tragedies and the lively characters (from Heather’s vibrant friends to her good-natured aunt) give the story movement and prevent it from becoming a downer, even as the twins’ story, told in flashback dreams, grows ever darker. In between happy reunions and hiding her cutting, Heather discovers she isn’t the first in the MacNair family to experience the twins—and more. Soon, she’s tempted by a dangerous power she doesn’t know much about. Romantic subplots add unobtrusive texture and contribute to believable characterization. Aside from an Indian friend, most characters are white and Scottish. The setting charms, and the mystery unravels at a good clip.

A thoroughly enjoyable contemporary Gothic. (Paranormal suspense. 13 & up)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93805-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Intervals of intense suspense and a well-crafted puzzle blend to create a thrill ride of a story.

FIVE SURVIVE

Red Kenny and her friends’ spring break road trip veers off course when they are detained by a sniper.

Since her police captain mother’s murder, Red has been inseparable from Maddy Lavoy, though it’s often difficult for Red to witness the warm family dynamics Maddy and her brother, Oliver, share with their mother, an assistant DA and Red’s late mother’s best friend. Red, the Lavoy siblings, and three other friends—Reyna Flores-Serrano, Arthur Moore, and Simon Yoo—embark in a borrowed RV on a journey to Gulf Shores but instead find themselves in the crosshairs of a long-range rifle held by a man demanding that one of them reveal an important secret. As Red battles internally with her guilt and grief over her mother’s death, her companions become increasingly volatile and paranoid as the group tries to discern whose secret is the one the hostage taker is after. The sometimes-tedious, sometimes-intense moment-by-moment breakdown of events in the 31-foot RV (that seems much smaller as the night wears on) magnifies the claustrophobia. Subtle indications that no one can really be trusted alternate with mind-blowing revelations. Toxic masculinity is often at war with common sense and good judgment, and moral ambiguity abounds. Red, Arthur, and the Lavoy siblings read White; Reyna is Mexican American, and Simon is cued as biracial (Korean and White). (This review has been updated to correct a character’s name.)

Intervals of intense suspense and a well-crafted puzzle blend to create a thrill ride of a story. (maps) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-37416-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters.

RETRO

A no-technology challenge in a small Northern California town turns sinister.

After Samantha shoplifts but lets her friend Luna take the fall for her crime, Luna is rightfully enraged—and not least because her mother, a Spanish immigrant, is at risk of losing her visa to remain in the U.S., making any sort of criminal activity especially harmful. Luna uploads a video of a drunk Samantha bad-mouthing her friends and other classmates to Limbo, the social media app everyone’s obsessed with. Even though she has regrets and deletes it shortly after, she isn’t fast enough, and the video goes viral. The harsh response results in Samantha’s attempting to take her own life. The fact that she survives alleviates some of Luna’s guilt, but she still sends a private message to the app developers, explaining her role in what happened and asking for their help as she seeks accountability. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Limbo CEO comes to their school and proposes a challenge: Any student who manages to go the entire school year without using technology, including their phones, will receive a full-ride scholarship to college. As the year progresses, however, some of Luna’s friends disappear and the real nature of #RetroChallenge becomes clear. Though the fast pace will appeal to reluctant readers, it comes at the expense of character development and relationship-building, making it hard to feel attached to any of them. The stilted dialogue poses another obstacle.

A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66590-275-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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