An engaging tale with shades of horror and well-drawn characters.

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FOUR TOMBSTONES

From the Josie Jameson Mystery series , Vol. 1

In Hotes’ (Cyborgia, 2015, etc.) YA mystery, a cemetery excursion by a group of Seattle teens unearths a few buried secrets.

Fifteen-year-old Josie Jameson’s plan for Halloween isn’t mere trick-or-treating. She and her lifelong pals, Casey, Seth, and Blaze, head to Lakefront Cemetery, the resting place of Josie’s late mom, Sarah. Josie believes that Halloween is an ideal night to “feel” her mom’s spirit. But a strange, gray cat leads her to an older tombstone with peculiar markings and no apparent name on it. Her friends also discover intriguing gravesites: Casey finds a child’s; Blaze, a priest’s; and Seth, a military veteran’s. Each teen feels compelled to learn more, and they receive some help from the cemetery caretaker, Grace. Later, Josie finds a letter from her mother, hidden in a picture frame, which the latter wrote after she received her cancer diagnosis. In it, Sarah purports to know magic and cryptically asks Josie to locate a special object and bury it next to her remains. The process of resolving the various mysteries ultimately leads to feuding among the friends. In this novel, Hotes includes plenty of spooky elements, including stories of witchcraft, crows that attack Josie, and, at one point, the appearance of Sarah’s ghostly figure. However, it’s the author’s attention to characterization that truly drives the tale. For example, it’s revealed that in the six years since Sarah’s death, Josie has repressed her grief while caring for her little brother, Owen, and their perpetually despondent father. Hotes offers meticulous and engrossing scenes showing how Josie gradually begins to mourn and how her friends sort out their own personal problems; for instance, Casey feels that her parents neglect her in favor of her athletic brother. As a result, the story is generally gloomy in tone, but it does have a few bright spots, including hints of a potential romance between Josie and one of her friends. There’s an effective twist near the end, and the supernatural elements leave room for expansion in future installments.

An engaging tale with shades of horror and well-drawn characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9987199-0-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Storm Mystery Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2018

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Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful...

KIT'S WILDERNESS

Almond (Skellig, 1999) spins teenagers of very different backgrounds and experience into a whirl of ghosts and dreams, stories-within-stories, joy, heartache, and redemption.

In order to be able to care for his newly widowed grandfather, Kit has moved with his parents to the town of Stoneygate, perched in desolate decline on top of a maze of abandoned coal mines. He is soon drawn to follow wild, unstable, aptly named John Askew into a game called “Death” that leaves him sealed up in a tunnel; Kit emerges from the darkness with images of children and others killed in the mines flickering at the edge of his sight, and a strange, deep affinity for Askew. Inspired by Askew’s brutal family life, and gifted with a restless, brilliant imagination, Kit begins a prehistoric quest tale involving two lost children—a story that takes on a life of its own. Setting his tale in a town where the same family names appear on both mailboxes and tombstones, and where dark places are as common as sad memories, Almond creates a physical landscape that embodies the emotional one through which his characters also move, adding an enriching symbolic layer by giving acts and utterances the flavor of ritual.

Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful story is reminiscent of Alan Garner’s Stone Book quartet. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 7, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32665-3

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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Romano (The Beetle And Me, p. 638) uses a nonlinear narrative and multiple points of view to paint a challenging, perspicuous character portrait. Clinging stubbornly to the illusion that her elementary school clique hasn’t left her behind for new interests and alliances, tough, bossy Janine leads a solitary life, standing alone at the bus stop in the morning, shoehorning her way into conversations at school, and poking around a marshy old mill pond in her free time. For an assignment designed to sharpen observational skills, Janine opts to keep a record of herself—unaware that she is also being watched by Eric, a new classmate with the same assignment, a broken leg, and a ready video camera. Although the cast is large enough to cause occasional confusion, Romano’s teenagers reveal themselves without resorting to tedious self-analysis. Janine, whose utter lack of social skills will not win much sympathy from readers initially, comes to realize that there are other ways to communicate besides browbeating, and shows her mettle in a genuinely frightening climax, courageously (if foolishly) launching a furious verbal attack on a fisherman who has been masturbating openly at the isolated pond. In a compelling show of solidarity, neighbors and police race to back her up, led by Eric, who catches the whole encounter on tape. Unflinching, well told, rich in character. (Fiction. 13+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16517-6

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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