A frothy mystery that trips over its desire for social relevance.


A mysterious social network sows discontent.

NEED is the hot new thing. The social network claims to provide the one thing each member truly needs. All a user has to do is provide the site with a request and perform a task. These tasks start off small, like emailing invitations to join the site to five people, but the bigger the need, the bigger the task. Sixteen-year-old Kaylee has one big need: a new kidney for her ailing younger brother. NEED has promised her the kidney, but how far will Kaylee go to get it? And how far will her classmates go to get what they desire above all else? Charbonneau provides readers with Kaylee's first-person perspective and sprinkles in several chapters from those of her peers. The result is a web as intricate as NEED's own networking. Less interesting is Kaylee's single-mindedness. The chapters that don't feature Kaylee are a welcome respite from her obsession with her younger brother's health. This trait is honorable at first, but it won’t take long for readers to decide that Kaylee has nothing else going on. When her friend Nate professes undying love, readers will wonder why. Other characters, such as Gina, the school's mean girl, and Ethan, a budding sociopath, are a delight. The book also squanders nuance regarding NEED's social and psychological implications. These themes are spoken aloud by NEED's creator, a comically villainous character who would be charming if one didn’t suspect her primary purpose is making subtext into text.

A frothy mystery that trips over its desire for social relevance. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-41669-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.


Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.


A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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