THE ESCAPE

A hiking trip turns into a crime scene, and a small town is thrown into turmoil.

When the town jock Adam Marshall and weirdo Fletcher Carroll go on a routine hike, no one worries until three hours go by without any word from either of them. A search party is quickly organized, and the police chief's daughter, Avery, finds Fletcher bloody, bruised, and having no memory of what exactly happened. Adam is found dead shortly afterward, and everyone in town whispers and tries to figure out who killed the teen sports star. Unfortunately, even only partly alert readers will be able to figure out exactly who did it. A mystery this obvious is a dull read, made less enticing by the lifeless characters populating it. Clunky exposition is wrapped in a moody delivery that feels like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Veronica Mars episode. Most insulting is the author's treatment of schizophrenia, a serious disease that is worthy of careful exploration. Here it is reduced to a catchall answer for the killer's motive and weapon. It is especially unfortunate that this occurs on the second-to-last page of the book, instantly reminding many readers of the similar final moments in Psycho. It is not a good idea to point readers’ attention to superior entertainment when your middling mystery is wrapping up.

Hollow. (Mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4926-1654-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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Slow off the mark and gratuitously violent but cooking with (nerve) gas by the end.

THE TRIGGER MECHANISM

From the Camp Valor series , Vol. 2

With help from a reclusive billionaire, teen supersoldiers tackle a cyberterrorist in this sequel to Camp Valor (2018).

The main suspense comes from wondering when the chases and firefights are finally going to start. Traumatized by the discovery that he’s been duped into mowing down a crowd of real pedestrians in what he thought was a virtual truck, online gamer Jalen Rose is recruited by Valorian agent and co-protagonist Wyatt to join him in an unauthorized mission to find the instigator, Encyte. There are suspects aplenty. Their patron, tech tycoon John Darsie, points them toward one possibility: his own employee Julie Chen, a brilliant (not to mention “tough and a little boyish, but cute”) 14-year-old gamer and software designer. Despite a series of cyber exploits, including a high-casualty riot fueled by pheromones, there are so many distracting subplots—notably the hunt for a traitor from the first volume, the arrival of a government official who orders the camp shut down because she can’t see the value of a cadre of secretly trained child warriors (go figure), and a developing relationship between Jalen and Julie—that the pedal doesn’t really hit the metal until some time after the real villain makes a tardy first entrance. Jalen is African American and Wyatt is white.

Slow off the mark and gratuitously violent but cooking with (nerve) gas by the end. (Paramilitary thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-08825-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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