A surprisingly deft mystery for early teens.

DEVIN RHODES IS DEAD

Convinced she is responsible for her best friend’s death, Cass feels haunted by Devin’s ghost even as she tries to hide her guilt.

Cass gradually reveals the actual events in chapters that alternate between “after” and “before.” Devin is not the most likable of creatures though infinitely prettier than her more “ample” friend and completely boy-obsessed. Fifteen-year-old Cass recalls various humiliations at Devin’s hands as well as her increasing isolation from other friends as the result of Devin’s machinations. As the truth of the killing finally emerges, first-time novelist Kam keeps atmosphere, suspense and characters realistically entwined. The language has a somewhat old-fashioned flavor, and although readers are soon likely to suspect that Cass is a rather unreliable narrator, Cass’ supernatural experience and revelation of events unfold smoothly. The well-developed cast of characters provides the needed red herrings in classic mystery fashion. The story is ideal for middle school readers who are on the cusp of discovering their romantic selves; Devin’s reckless, sexualized encounters with the opposite sex contrast well with Cass’ careful exploration of her own interest in a boy who actually sees her and finds her attractive. The charm necklaces the two girls purchase to epitomize their best friend status thread symbolically through the narrative, keeping the focus on their relationship.

A surprisingly deft mystery for early teens. (Mystery. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934133-59-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Mackinac Island Press

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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BAMBOO PEOPLE

Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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