A captivating story of a reluctant hero that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.

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Ruthless mercenaries invade a posh New England prep school and confront resourceful teens in this high-stakes YA thriller.

Seventeen-year-old Cade Dixon is part Holden Caulfield, part Jason Bourne, with a touch of MacGyver. He was raised by a single mother whose administrative position at a prep school enables him to attend. He covertly sells homework assignments to his wealthy classmates and harbors a crush on a student named Kira but hasn’t yet kissed a girl. He’s inordinately curious, highly intelligent, and knows every hiding place in the school. These characteristics, combined with his mastery of mixed martial arts, make him a terrific foil for brilliant, diabolical criminal mastermind Reilly, who’s employed 14 heavily armed men to lay siege to the school. He has sophisticated, encrypted communication devices enabling him to jam all cellphones and electronics on campus and to tap into law enforcement agencies’ feeds. Cade avoids the initial student roundup and works to prevent what horrors he can; he manages to get his mother released, enlist Kira’s aid, and inflict serious injury on some henchmen. Meanwhile, Reilly announces his plan: The 10 richest parents of the hostages must transfer as much money as they can raise in an hour into an offshore account. The child whose parents raise the least will be executed. The story’s pacing is taut and its tension intense, but it’s tempered by the enjoyable pairing of Cade and Kira. Both are supersmart, funny kids whose knowledge base includes physics, chemistry, psychology, and even Morse code to help them outfox Reilly. Apt high school references abound, as when Cade notes that a weaponized 1922 school trophy is solid metal because “back then you only gave out one”—no participation awards necessary. Kira pulls off a few acts that are reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen’s exploits because, due to the popularity of The Hunger Games and Brave, “every girl in school had been obsessed with all things archery.” The book’s positive depictions of female roles and slyly understated politics are also appealing.

A captivating story of a reluctant hero that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.

Pub Date: April 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73469-241-9

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Waterfall Films, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.


Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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A great read offering entertainment, encouragement, and plenty to reflect upon.


A gay teen contends with time travel—and homophobia through the decades.

All Cuban American Luis wants is to be prom king with his boyfriend, but tiny upstate New York boarding school Antic Springs Academy, with its strict, Christian code of conduct, won’t even let them hold hands in public. After a disastrous prom committee meeting at which his attempt to make the event welcoming of queer couples is rejected by the principal, Luis gets quite literally knocked into the past—specifically, ASA in the year 1985. There he meets Chaz, a Black student who attended the school at the same time as Luis’ parents and who died under mysterious circumstances after being bullied for his sexuality. Luis now faces a choice between changing the past to help Chaz and preserving his own future existence. Fortunately, he has Ms. Silverthorn, a Black English teacher and beloved mentor, who offers him support in both timelines. The narrative explores the impacts of homophobia and being closeted, remaining optimistic without shying away from the more brutal aspects. Luis is a multifaceted character with an engaging voice whose flaws are confronted and examined throughout. The solid pacing and pleasant, fluid prose make this a page-turner. Luis’ boyfriend is cued as Chinese American, and his best friend is nonbinary; there is some diversity in ethnicity and sexuality in background characters, although the school is predominantly White.

A great read offering entertainment, encouragement, and plenty to reflect upon. (author's note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0710-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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