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THE LAST EXECUTION

Brilliantly devastating.

In the hours before his 1853 public execution, both the young Dane slated to die and various community members reflect on the nature of the punishment, highlighting the social, ethical, and even economic impacts of such displays.

With only hours left to live, 15-year-old Niels’ final reflections are so strangely calm, so devoid of anger and fear, that readers may at first assume his acceptance signifies guilt. However, the gentle lyricism with which he recalls the love he shared with his father—in spite of their homelessness and desperate fears of workhouse imprisonment—becomes a powerfully stark reminder of the brutality of his current situation. And while readers understand that his role in the sheriff’s son’s death is undeniable, the carefully paced reveals of the specific circumstances leading up to the fatal incident ultimately suggest Niels’ greatest crime might simply have been poverty. Interrupting Niels’ reflections are chapters showcasing the townspeople, who primarily demonstrate condemnation of Niels but also curiosity, occasionally sorrow, and even excitement about the very public spectacle of his gruesome death. These vignettes effectively suggest that the town’s quest for justice and closure has, in reality, turned many citizens into beings far more monstrous than Niels himself. Altogether, it’s an incredibly moving, harrowing, and thought-provoking look at the historical connections between poverty and injustice, made all the more frightening because of the novel’s relevance to current social issues.

Brilliantly devastating. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2965-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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THE REAPPEARANCE OF RACHEL PRICE

Readers will be captivated by this twisty thriller and its uncompromising protagonist.

The mother Annabel Price thought was dead returns with a story about where she’s been—but 18-year-old Bel knows she’s lying.

Ever since Rachel Price’s unexplained disappearance 16 years ago, true-crime fans have come up with plentiful theories about what happened. Bel and her family members, who are white, cobbled together lives for themselves after a jury found Bel’s father, Charlie, not guilty of murdering his wife. Beset with medical bills for his elderly father, Charlie recently agreed to participate in a documentary about the unsolved mystery. Black British filmmaker Ramsey Lee is well into the process of interviewing the Prices when his project gets an unanticipated boost after an exhausted, disheveled Rachel staggers back into town. Rachel is eager to resume her role in the family, but the inconsistencies in her accounts raise alarms for Bel. With the help of the youngest member of the filmmaking team, Bel sets out to learn what really happened. Along the way, someone else disappears, and Bel uncovers a tangle of lies that make it impossible for her to trust people she thought she knew. When things come to a head the night of her grandfather’s 85th birthday party, Bel ends up in a race for her life. The last quarter of the novel tears along at a breakneck pace before arriving at a satisfying and unexpected conclusion.

Readers will be captivated by this twisty thriller and its uncompromising protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593374207

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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LIAR'S BEACH

From the Liar's Beach series , Vol. 1

This scorching glimpse of life (and death) among the moneyed classes hits its marks, if a bit mechanically.

A summertime stay on Martha’s Vineyard confirms everything Linden thinks about rich people.

Best known for emotional YA romances, Cotugno tries her hand at an emotional whodunit—and readers who can roll with the weird attraction her protagonist seems to exert on the two main young women here may find themselves caught up in an engrossing whirl of, as the title promises, lies, secrets, and louche living. Hardly has he arrived for a two-week stay at palatial August House than Michael Linden and his host and boarding school roommate Jasper’s twin sister, Eliza, are bedroom-bound; his ghosted former platonic friend Holiday turns up; and Greg, despised boyfriend of another houseguest, winds up in a coma after an apparent accident. Dragged along by Holiday, who, along with inexplicably letting bygones be bygones, turns out to be an enthusiastic amateur sleuth, scholarship student Linden finds plenty of fuel for his (supposedly) secret resentment of the privileged classes and the way they can get away with anything. Though not, as it turns out after a comfortably conventional denouement complete with surprise confession, murder. Also, as a tease at the end suggests, for all that he comes clean about several secrets of his own, Linden leads the pack in the “things to hide” department. Aside from one prominent supporting character—a brown-skinned lacrosse champion—the central cast reads White.

This scorching glimpse of life (and death) among the moneyed classes hits its marks, if a bit mechanically. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780593433287

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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