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

DON'T LOOK BACK

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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An enticing, turbulent, and satisfying final voyage.

THE NOBLEMAN'S GUIDE TO SCANDAL AND SHIPWRECKS

From the Montague Siblings series , Vol. 3

Adrian, the youngest of the Montague siblings, sails into tumultuous waters in search of answers about himself, the sudden death of his mother, and her mysterious, cracked spyglass.

On the summer solstice less than a year ago, Caroline Montague fell off a cliff in Aberdeen into the sea. When the Scottish hostel where she was staying sends a box of her left-behind belongings to London, Adrian—an anxious, White nobleman on the cusp of joining Parliament—discovers one of his mother’s most treasured possessions, an antique spyglass. She acquired it when she was the sole survivor of a shipwreck many years earlier. His mother always carried that spyglass with her, but on the day of her death, she had left it behind in her room. Although he never knew its full significance, Adrian is haunted by new questions and is certain the spyglass will lead him to the truth. Once again, Lee crafts an absorbing adventure with dangerous stakes, dynamic character growth, sharp social and political commentary, and a storm of emotion. Inseparable from his external search for answers about his mother, Adrian seeks a solution for himself, an end to his struggle with mental illness—a journey handled with hopeful, gentle honesty that validates the experiences of both good and bad days. Characters from the first two books play significant secondary roles, and the resolution ties up their loose ends. Humorous antics provide a well-measured balance with the heavier themes.

An enticing, turbulent, and satisfying final voyage. (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291601-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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