THE GATHERING

When Evil returns to the town of Cheshunt after many years, five teenagers with troubled pasts form a Chain to combat it. Carmody festoons her tale with tried-and-true elements—nightmares, eerie winds, feral dogs, airs of wrongness, supernatural effects, talismans and rituals, diaries, and an old mystery to unravel. She also places several important incidents offstage, to be reported by one character or another, offers undeveloped hints of dark deeds in the distant past, and gives her Evilness an objective that will strain readers' credulity: Karle, the local high school's possessed vice principal, organizes armed groups of students to terrorize neighboring towns as a preliminary to conquest. Though presaged by an act of startling brutality (Karle's heavies torch a beloved pet) and set in the town slaughterhouse (a nice touch) during a hurricane, the final confrontation is as confused as it is dramatic: Karle takes a time-out from a psychological assault on the Chain to explain his plans—not noticing that the building is on fire. Fans of the horror genre will find this Australian novelist's US debut uneven but promising. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8037-1716-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A deliciously disturbing, twisted tale.

MARY, WILL I DIE?

Teens endure fallout from a game of Bloody Mary.

Everybody’s done it at some point: You look in the mirror and repeat the name Bloody Mary. Sometimes, the legend says, you’ll see your true love. Sometimes they say you’ll see the ghost’s face, and it means you will die young. But these four fourth grade friends—Grace, Calvin, Elena, and Steph—didn’t count on their little game’s still affecting them five years later. They were just having some spooky fun in Elena’s deceased grandmother’s room, after all. But now, even after all these years have passed, each of them still sees a shape behind them whenever they look in a mirror. But the frights really begin when a new girl arrives at school. Her name is Mary. The author effectively and slowly ratchets the tension and dread, crafting some cleverly frightening sequences that fans of the genre will love. Less effective is the characterization: As each chapter pivots perspectives, some readers may have to double back and sort out which of the troubled teens they’re following. As the scares pile up and the descent into madness moves forward, the characterization gets a bit crisper, but the first few chapters may pose a bit of a hurdle. The novel’s conclusion is satisfactory, but the real highlights here are the spooky sequences. The teens are all presumed White.

A deliciously disturbing, twisted tale. (Horror. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-67927-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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