A slick, spooky, chilling mystery.


Stephen's family returns to his father's hometown in search of a fresh start, but the town's dark history threatens to swallow them whole.

Stephen's father swore he'd never return to the tiny, backwater town of Spencer, Michigan, but excessive hospital bills have forced his hand. So Stephen finds himself living with his grumpy grandmother and distracted father, worrying about his sick mother who remains back home. He distracts himself with beautiful local girl Cara and befriends her twin brother, Devon. He also investigates the town's mysterious legends, most of which involve murders and gruesome winged beasts. The author expertly sets the tone of a small claustrophobic town where everyone knows everyone else's business and no one wants outsiders digging too deep. Nagging dread permeates the narrative, casting a shadow over even some of Stephen's happier moments. His budding romance with Cara is smartly paced, resulting in a solid couple that feels fresh and rounded when compared to other teen couples in horror books. The novel's final pages will surely shock readers: The author takes great glee in not just presenting a great reveal toward the end, but also twisting the knife. Keen-eyed readers may spot the twist, but few will predict just how far it goes. 

A slick, spooky, chilling mystery. (Horror. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-230788-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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


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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