An appealing young hero leads an indelible cast in this entertaining thriller.


A teenager faces a stalker menacing him and his rock star parents in this YA mystery.

Slate Volkov’s junior year at a Manhattan private academy is off to a bad start. He’s getting vaguely ominous texts from an anonymous “R” and spots a stranger following him. These threats soon name Slate’s parents—famous Russian rockers who can’t get United States citizenship until their American-born son is old enough to sponsor them. When his parents, headed back to their home country with their band mates, are in a car accident, there’s a chance this mishap was actually a deliberate attempt on their lives. As Slate struggles to identify as well as evade the “perv” incessantly stalking him, he learns that Russian thugs have been intimidating Galina Minkin, his motherly, full-time guardian in New York. As the new school year pushes on, he balances a semesterlong project with his amateur but potentially dangerous investigation. Luckily, new pals at the academy, along with his trustworthy best friend, John “Dash” Dasher, lend support as Slate fights to keep himself and his family safe. Mularz’s engaging tale moves at a steady clip, hitting the ground running as Slate receives an unnerving, cryptic text. But the teens’ compelling personal dramas take precedence over the mystery. Slate’s parents spend more time partying hard than with their only child, while Dash’s father, also a celebrity musician, seems even more neglectful. Furthermore, Slate’s fellow students include one who resents his wealth and privilege and another whose father may be abusing him. Still, it’s fun to watch Slate piece together certain clues, which he manages to do without putting himself or his friends in too much peril. Ample scenes pairing Slate and Dash make this a mostly lighthearted offering, as their version of rebelling against famous parents is jamming in their two-man, country-music band.

An appealing young hero leads an indelible cast in this entertaining thriller.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950613-76-2

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Taylor and Seale Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2021

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Fans of empowering feminist fairy-tale retellings will love this.


From the Grimrose Girls series , Vol. 1

Four reimagined fairy-tale heroines must confront their inner demons to break a curse.

Ella, Yuki, and Rory attend the prestigious Grimrose Académie for Elite Students in the Swiss Alps. They are currently grieving the death of one of their best friends, and while Ari’s death by drowning has been deemed either an accident or suicide, her closest friends have their doubts. When they find an old book of fairy tales hidden in Ari’s things, full of strange annotations in her handwriting, the girls start working—along with new student Nani—to investigate Ari’s suspicious death. As they put together the pieces and discover other deaths that happened at Grimrose, they start to wonder if there was magic involved in Ari’s death—magic that may also be at the core of their very lives, cursing them to unhappy endings. Grief, identity, and friendship intersect in this enthralling mystery with dark magical undertones that ingeniously plays with fairy-tale tropes to tell a feminist story about empowerment and grappling with how to break away from the confines of societal expectations of girls. Reminiscent of the works of Anna-Marie McLemore and Elana K. Arnold, this book ends with the promise of more to come. The main cast is queer and features diversity in disability and mental health. Rory and Ella default to White; Yuki’s name cues her as Japanese, and Nani is Black and Native Hawaiian.

Fans of empowering feminist fairy-tale retellings will love this. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-887-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

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A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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