Combining Korean-American experience with ancient cultural traditions for a new twist on exorcism, this tale’s for beginning...

SPIRIT HUNTERS

From the Spirit Hunters series , Vol. 1

A neophyte Korean shaman, or “mudang,” takes center stage in this chilling thriller by Oh, of We Need Diverse Books.

The story starts when mixed-race 12-year-old Harper Raine, who is half white and half Korean, moves into a new home in Washington, D.C., that her new Jamaican friend, Dayo, tells her is haunted. Before the Raines left New York City, Harper survived both a fire and a traumatizing illness, but she has blocked all memories of these events. The creepiness ramps up in mind, gut, and heart as readers see Harper’s little brother making a new “friend” in their home. As she witnesses an evil spirit slowly overtaking her brother, Harper’s memories begin to resurface. While Harper selflessly tries to save her brother’s life from multiple evils, she juggles the psychological conflict of her mother’s broken relationship with Harper’s beloved Korean grandmother, who lives nearby. The tension of the life-ending danger stretches across sometimes confusingly paced chapters, as help arrives slowly. While the writing level skews young, the graphic content is gruesome. Readers will not want harm to come to the likable Raine family. The well-rounded and diverse cast provides interesting cultural touchstones of Korean and Jamaican heritage throughout the novel. Korean shamanism, specifically, is explored with respect and curiosity.

Combining Korean-American experience with ancient cultural traditions for a new twist on exorcism, this tale’s for beginning horror fans and readers looking for a decent scare. (Horror. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243008-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has somestandards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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Light on gore and corpses; otherwise a full-bore, uncomplicated shriekfest.

VACANCY

Does anyone who volunteers to spend a night in a derelict haunted hotel on a dare deserve what they get?

“The hotel is hungry. And we aren’t leaving here until it’s fed.” In what reads like a determined effort to check off every trope of the genre, Alexander sends new arrival Jasmine, along with two friends and several dozen other classmates, to the long-abandoned Carlisle Hotel for the annual seventh grade Dare—touching off a night of terror presided over by the leering, autocratic Grand Dame and complete with sudden gusts and blackouts, spectral visions, evil reflections in mirrors, skeletons, a giant spider, gravity reversals, tides of oily black sludge sucking screaming middle schoolers down the drain, and so much more. (No gore, though, aside from a few perfunctory drops of blood from one small scratch.) The author saves a twist for the end, and as inducement to read alone or aloud in the dark by flashlight, both his language and the typography crank up the melodrama: “He walks toward us, past the mirror, and I see it— / a pale white face in the reflection, / a gaunt, skeletal grimace, / with sharpened teeth / and hollow black eyes, staring at him / with its mouth / wide / open / in a scream….” Jasmine presents White; her closest friends are Rohan, whose name cues him as South Asian, and Mira, who has dark skin.

Light on gore and corpses; otherwise a full-bore, uncomplicated shriekfest. (Horror. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-70215-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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