This science-heavy mystery isn’t as smart as it would like to be.

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DEATH SPIRAL

From the Faith Flores Science Mysteries series

When a junkie dies, no one bothers to ask questions—except her daughter.

Six weeks have passed since Faith found her addict mother dead in their West Philly apartment, but she still hasn’t settled into her new life with her aunt in the suburbs. Already troubled by lingering doubts about her mother’s apparent overdose, Faith begins to search for hard answers after she discovers her mother was secretly participating in a clinical trial for a new treatment for heroin addiction. Though Faith’s reluctant to share her troubles with her aunt and her perky best friend, she finds a confidant—and romantic interest—in Jesse, a new student with a rebellious streak. Debut novelist Chodosh provides plenty of detail as Faith delves into the world of big-money medical research and gene therapy, but the science and mystery fall as flat as the unconvincing dialogue. Faith’s research never actually feels like the start of a genuine passion for the subject, and most of the progress she makes in her investigation comes through good luck rather than actual deductions. Astute readers will guess the truth behind her mother’s death long before the improbable denouement.

This science-heavy mystery isn’t as smart as it would like to be. (Mystery. 12-17)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-9293-4500-7

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Poisoned Pencil

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking.

TEEN KILLERS CLUB

An accused murderer is thrust into an assassin training program.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere is serving hard time after a hazy night with her former best friend, Rose, which ended with Rose’s body in her lap, an emotional trial, and the media moniker the “Girl from Hell.” After her caseworker, Dave, assures Signal there’s no way she’ll get a successful appeal, he offers her an alternative: being shipped off to a mysterious camp and enrolled in a top-secret government training program unofficially known as the Teen Killers Club. There, Signal and other adolescent Class A felons (the most dangerous kind) undergo various drills—among them, dismembering fake corpses and dissolving flesh in acid—in preparation for eventually being used as assassins against government targets. The teens have been injected with a device remotely controlled by their trainers that will kill them if they attempt to escape the camp or otherwise disobey orders. As Signal nurses an attraction to sensitive tattooed Javier and fights her feelings for handsome sociopath Erik, she begins to piece together what really happened that night with Rose. Sparks crafts a page-turner with a disturbingly unusual premise, snappy dialogue, and characters that go deeper than their heinous crimes. Signal and Erik are assumed White; love interest Javier is cued as Latinx, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking. (Thriller. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-229-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Quietly suspenseful, vividly character-driven, and poignant, with insights into cerebral palsy and the multiple meanings of...

I HAVE NO SECRETS

A nonverbal teen becomes the “real-life password” to solving a terrible crime in this British import.

Sixteen-year-old Jemma has “no secrets of [her] own.” Quadriplegic due to cerebral palsy, she can’t move or speak and depends on her foster parents and her aide, Sarah, for everything from eating to using the bathroom. But people often share their secrets with her. After all, Jemma can never tell—even when Sarah’s sleazy boyfriend, Dan, hints at his involvement in a recent murder just before Sarah goes missing. But when innovative technology offers Jemma a chance to communicate, can she expose Dan’s secret before he silences her? Despite its suspenseful premise, the plot pales against Joelson’s (Girl in the Window, 2018) intimate, unflinching exploration of Jemma’s character; the book’s most powerful tension lies in Jemma’s simple, direct narration of her unrecognized, uncomfortably realistic frustrations and fears, such as patronizing adults who “don’t realize that [she has] a functioning brain” and her worry that her overwhelmed parents will stop fostering. Refreshingly, the author’s detailed depiction of augmentative and alternative communication explores both the joy of self-expression and the physical and mental effort it requires. Jemma’s bond with her chaotic but supportive foster family grounds the story, particularly her touching rapport with her younger foster brother, Finn, who’s autistic and also nonverbal. Most characters appear white.

Quietly suspenseful, vividly character-driven, and poignant, with insights into cerebral palsy and the multiple meanings of “family.” (Suspense. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9336-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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