Readers might do well to take his advice.

READ REVIEW

A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO

When Tyler’s jerky sophomore-history teacher falsely accuses him of cheating, his somewhat psycho best friend Adam pays to have a voodoo doll made of their teacher.

Despite Tyler’s initial disbelief that the doll could be real, the two try it out the following day. Tyler sticks the doll’s leg with a pin, and his teacher’s leg flies off, spurting blood everywhere. The paramedics take him away. The two boys proceed to freak out—Adam much more so than Tyler, because then he has a voodoo doll made in Tyler’s image to blackmail him from spilling their story to the cops. All of this happens in the first 45 pages, and what ensues is a ridiculously stupid chase to rescue the doll from car-stealing thugs, a Rottweiler and a host of other bizarre and mildly humorous characters before Tyler meets an untimely demise. Strand’s best selling point is his ability to create authentic teen voices and craft wacky plot twists that baffle and surprise readers. The novel’s assets stop there, however. The characterizations are shaky. The plotting is haphazard and dissonant, and the author occasionally inserts his own commentary into the novel at various points, advising readers to “take a break and read the Hunger Games again.”

Readers might do well to take his advice. (Thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4022-6680-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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Heart-pounding.

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CEMETERY BOYS

A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A lackluster take on a well-worn trope.

THE TWIN

After a family tragedy, 16-year-old Ivy Mason hopes to reconnect with her aloof identical twin sister, Iris—but Iris has other plans.

When Ivy’s parents divorced 10 years ago, Ivy stayed with her father while Iris went to live with their mother. When their mother dies after falling off a bridge while jogging, Iris comes to live with Ivy and their father. Narrator Ivy is reeling (she even goes to therapy), but Iris seems strangely detached, only coming to life when Ivy introduces her to her best friends, Haley and Sophie, and her quarterback boyfriend, Ty. However, Ivy isn’t thrilled when Iris wants to change her class schedule to match hers, and it’s not long before Iris befriends Ivy’s besties and even makes plans with them that don’t include Ivy. Iris even joins the swim team where Ivy is a star swimmer. As Iris’ strange behavior escalates, Ivy starts to suspect that their mother’s death might not have been an accident. Is Iris up to no good, or is Ivy just paranoid? In the end, readers may not care. There are few surprises to be found in a narrative populated by paper-thin characters stuck fast in a derivative plot. Even a jarring final twist can’t save this one. Most characters seem to be white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters.

A lackluster take on a well-worn trope. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12496-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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