An engaging, if flawed, mixture of mean girls, steamy romance and psychological terror.

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This engrossing thriller packs a heady atmospheric punch with plenty of theatrical scares, but it’s a bit too transparent to fully succeed as a mystery.

Samantha is recovering from a complex concussion that not only obliterated her memory, but also wiped clean her personality. Despite this, disturbing, bloody images visit her after she is found alone and bruised in the wilderness, days after she and her best friend, Cassie, went missing. And she is sobered by what she learns about her past self. Teen readers will appreciate Samantha’s earnest attempts to redeem herself in the eyes of her brother and childhood friends, even as she is horrified to learn that she’s alienated them for years with her petty, cruel behavior. Particularly complicated is her relationship with Carson Ortiz, the son of the groundskeeper on her extremely wealthy parents’ estate. The two are obviously attracted to each other, but Samantha’s wicked snobbery has been keeping them apart. Romance fans will love their playful banter, though it’s too bad ethnically stereotypical references to Carson as a “Latin-lover” and his “exotic” good looks linger into this 21st-century text. Samantha’s disjointed hallucinations of an eerily disheveled Cassie and of a hazy sinister figure are genuinely creepy, but for those who guess the culprit early on due to some unsubtle clues, it’s likely the carefully tension-filled pacing won’t work.

An engaging, if flawed, mixture of mean girls, steamy romance and psychological terror. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7512-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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