A twisty and entertaining magic-filled mystery that mirrors real-life issues.

CITY OF VILLAINS

From the City of Villains series , Vol. 1

A teen’s sense of justice leads her into dark and unexpected places.

Mary Elizabeth lives in the Scar with her Aunt Gia, living life to the fullest with her boyfriend, James; his Neverland boys; and her best friend, Ursula. While Mary balances attending school at Monarch High; partying at Wonderland, a local club for minors; and her internship with the police department that solved her parents’ murders, tensions rise between Legacy, the Scar’s original inhabitants who have a magical lineage, and Narrows, privileged incomers without magic. When the mysterious Mad Hatter strikes, leaving grisly presents for the police, and a wealthy Legacy student disappears, the police chief puts Mary and a young officer on the case in search of answers and justice. The Scar is a complex and realistic setting where Legacy struggle with collective trauma, social unrest, and inequity while rich Narrows families are buying up and building on Legacy land that holds spiritual significance and reshaping the high school to be less inclusive. Themes discussed include politics after the Death of Magic and the co-opting of Legacy culture by Narrows as well as the importance of chosen family. The appearance of familiar characters will draw readers into this story that delves into society’s darkness. Mary is pale-skinned with red hair; ethnic diversity in the cast does not correspond with Legacy versus Narrows status.

A twisty and entertaining magic-filled mystery that mirrors real-life issues. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-04938-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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

THE LAKE

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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