A great light read for graduates of John Kloepfer’s The Zombie Chasers (2010).

AFTER DARK

Rolling Hills is a boring, little hick town…until sundown.

Tenth-grader Charlie Harker leaves his expensive boarding school with visions of a summer break spent in Hawaii dancing in his head. He’s crushed when his mother tells him that she, his twin sister, Lilith, and Charlie will be rehabbing an old family manse into a bed-and-breakfast instead. He’s mortified to learn the family fortune—estranged Dad was a Tony Robbins–style self-help guru—is completely gone. Moments after waking in the driveway of the inn (after a monumental nap on the drive), Charlie is set upon by his shotgun-toting, deaf uncle Hal and local conspiracy theorist Miles Van Helsing. Trying at every turn to dodge actual work at the inn, even after the arrival of his TV-star brother, Johnny, Charlie is drawn into Miles’ investigation of strange happenings at the neighbor’s house. When the threat proves to be real, Charlie finds the only recourse is to run…but can he run fast enough? Leck’s sarcastic thriller features a distinctive monster that’s a fun twist on zombies…er…vampires. Given the final scene, a sequel is likely but not necessary. Scenes of Charlie and Co. fleeing “zompires” feels a bit like repetitive padding near the deus ex machina close, but Charlie’s snarky narration and skewed outlook make this a solid choice.

A great light read for graduates of John Kloepfer’s The Zombie Chasers (2010). (Horror. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77138-110-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has some standards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.

WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW

From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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