HEAP HOUSE

From the Iremonger series , Vol. 1

The first in a deliciously macabre trilogy for middle graders and young teens channels Dickens crossed with Lemony Snicket.

The Iremongers made their fortune scavenging the discards of London, and now the enormous extended family resides in the eponymous agglomerated mansion surrounded by feral rubbish heaps. Sickly Clod Iremonger, on the cusp of being “trousered” and saddled with adult responsibilities, is distrusted for his queer talent: He hears voices from those assorted “birth objects” (including his own sink plug) to which every member of the household is bonded for life. But now the objects are going astray, there are reports of an ominous Gathering, and storms are brewing in the heaps. When Clod teams up with the spunky servant Lucy Pennant, the sinister heritage of the Iremongers can no longer be concealed. Morbid black-and-white portraits reminiscent of Charles Addams and Edward Gorey punctuate a Gothic tale in turns witty, sweet, thoughtful and thrilling—but always off-kilter—and penned with gorgeous, loopy prose just this side of precious. The malevolent setting and delightfully loathsome cast highlight the odd likability of Lucy, so gleefully felonious and brash, and poor, strange, diffident Clod, whom she inspires to genuine heroism. Suspense and horror gradually accumulate into an avalanche of a climax, leading to the most precipitous of cliffhangers, yet what lingers are uncomfortable questions about treating things—and people—as disposable.

Magnificently creepy. (Horror. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0953-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit.

THESE HOLLOW VOWS

Brie risks the deadly land of the Fae to save her sister.

Brie doesn’t trust many people other than Jas, her eternally hopeful sister, and Sebastian, mage apprentice and Brie’s secret love (as if she had time for romance). Brie struggles to meet the payments for the magical contracts binding their lives to Madame Vivias, supplementing her cleaning work by stealing from the rich. While the land of Faerie tempts other girls with word of a castle, a lavish ball, and a fae prince seeking a wife, Brie mistrusts the creatures who capitalize on humanity’s greed. When Jas’ contract is sold to the fae, Brie braves the golden Seelie queen’s court, meets the noble Prince Ronan, and travels on to the Unseelie king’s shadow court. In the process she discovers love, historical secrets, atrocities, and her own hidden strength. While many elements regarding the fae and a love triangle will feel familiar to fans of the genre, and the magic could have been more fleshed out, discussions of power, inequity, trust, and hope expand the worldbuilding in refreshing ways. Similarly, consideration of the balance between truth and secrets, lies and stories, is intriguing as it’s applied to characters, relationships, and historical lore. Despite certain predictable reveals, the plot itself, which starts off slowly, picks up and is pleasantly convoluted with multiple satisfying surprises. Major human characters read as White.

An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38657-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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