Light indeed, but merry and often suspenseful. A pleasant, funny chick-lit mystery. (Mystery. 12 & up)

DEADLY COOL

From the Deadly Cool series , Vol. 1

In this light comedy/murder mystery, 16-year-old Hartley tries to prove that her ex-boyfriend didn’t kill her rival.

The emphasis stays on comedy with spikes of suspense as Hartley bounces from rage against boyfriend Josh and his not-so-secret squeeze Courtney to screaming shock when she finds Courtney’s dead body in Josh’s closet. Despite appearances, she’s sure he’s innocent and decides to prove it, no matter how ill-equipped she may be to do so. She teams up with Chase, a hunky, goth-type school journalist who looks a bit suspicious himself. Hartley breezily defies her mother and sneaks out of her house to meet strangers in the middle of the night, even after she literally stumbles over a second murder victim. Not surprisingly, eventually she finds herself in danger. Halliday keeps the mood light and tries to balance the comedy and suspense. Comedy easily wins the battle, but suspense often breaks into this fairly standard murder mystery. The author portrays Hartley as a bit of a bubble brain, however, indulging in omigod freakouts with best friend Sam at every turn of events and constantly acting on impulse, quipping her way through high-school suspects until she finds the major clue in the case. It’s fine for an audience more interested in light entertainment than discerning heft.

Light indeed, but merry and often suspenseful. A pleasant, funny chick-lit mystery. (Mystery. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-200331-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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