DEAD GIRLS DON’T WRITE LETTERS

A creepy psychological thriller offers a slick update to the parable of the returning prodigal. With her mother sunk deep in depressive lethargy, and her father indulging in alcoholic binges, 14-year-old Sunny has become the only functioning member of her family since the accidental death of her brilliant, beautiful older sister Jazz. Tossing a bombshell into this corrosive family circle is a letter from Jazz, announcing that the reports of her demise have been greatly exaggerated. But the Jazz who arrives is an imposter; or so Sunny insists, and her father grudgingly concedes, even though her mother accepts her with painful joy. But this Jazz seems to know too many intimate family details, and fit in far too well—or maybe that’s just what Sunny, so often outshone by her sister’s glamour, and the victim of her secret spite, wants to believe. Lies pile upon lies, and secrets upon secrets, in a twisty narrative that turns in on itself so often that the reader is left not knowing quite what is real. Giles (Shattering Glass, 2002) here shows the same acute psychological observation and masterful sense of pacing of her sensational debut, but without the same depth and subtlety. While Sunny is drawn with a sensitive hand, the rest of the characters are too over-the-top to be convincing, and the plot has the feel of a drawn out short story. Still, teen readers will love having their preconceptions continually turned topsy-turvy, and will endlessly debate the tale’s maddeningly ambiguous conclusion. Another winner. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7613-1727-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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