Passionate mystery or speculative fiction fans should look elsewhere.

STRANGE ALCHEMY

A revised version of the author’s first novel, Blackwood (2012).

Miranda Blackwood, the town “freak,” is cursed, along with her family, to remain on Roanoke Island (the site of the Lost Colony in North Carolina). Grant Rawling, grandson of the “legendary Witch of Roanoke Island,” was sent away to a boarding school nearly four years ago after his ability to hear the spirits of the dead emerged. Mystery develops when Miranda begins seeing a phantom ship and, like the original colonists, 114 islanders disappear. At a complete loss for clues, police chief Rawling summons his son back to Roanoke Island to help. The 17-year-olds, both evidently white given their ancestry, alternate narration. The premise of this speculative novel is intriguing: the spirit of alchemist John Dee has returned to fulfill his original plan of creating a new colony of immortals. The execution, however, is clunky, repetitive, and awkward as the teens continually scramble around the small island, trying to outwit a range of stereotyped characters from the villainous Dee to a crackpot conspiracy theorist to law enforcement agents. Except for one f-bomb (Miranda usually uses the Battlestar Galactica expletive “frak”), this story may be suited for those looking for “clean” reads with no sex or graphic violence, but that’s about all it has going for it.

Passionate mystery or speculative fiction fans should look elsewhere. (Speculative fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63079-076-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history

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  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ

A teenage girl imprisoned in Auschwitz keeps the secret library of a forbidden school.

Dita Adlerova, 14, is confined in the notorious extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Compared to her fellow inmates, Dita’s relatively lucky. The several thousand residents of camp BIIb are inexplicably allowed to keep their own clothing, their hair, and, most importantly, their children. A young man named Fredy Hirsch maintains a school in BIIb, right under the noses of the Nazis. In Fredy’s classroom, Dita discovers something wonderful: a dangerous collection of eight smuggled books. The tale, based on the real life of Dita Polach Kraus and the events of 1944 and 1945, intertwines the stories of several real people: Dita, Fredy, several little-known war heroes, even a grim cameo from Anne and Margot Frank. Holocaust-knowledgeable readers will have suspicions about how many characters will die horribly (spoiler alert: this is Auschwitz). Yet somehow, myriad storylines told by multiple narrators offer compelling narrative tension. Why does BIIb exist? Will Rudi and Alice have a romance? What’s Fredy’s secret? Will Dr. Mengele subject Dita to his grotesque experiments? Dita’s matter-of-fact perspective, set in a slow build from BIIb to the chaotic starvation of the war’s end, both increases the horror and makes it bearable to read.

Though no punches are pulled about the unimaginable atrocity of the death camps, a life-affirming history . (Historical fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-618-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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