A thoughtful and entertaining coming-of-age tale with a vibrant setting.

BLOWING IN THE WIND

When three teenagers get lost in the desert, dangerous conditions, animals, and people test their mettle in this debut YA novel.

It’s 1968, and for 13-year-old tanned friends Max, Eddie, and Daniel, one of their few pastimes in the high desert is staging scorpion battles in a mock arena. Daniel’s canyon-bred gladiators are the toughest, so the friends arrange a camping trip to find some more, emboldened by his knowledge of desert survival. After catching several scorpions, the friends decide to explore one of the nearby mines. Maybe they’ll even find the legendary Lost Randolph Mine or run across a missing test pilot. Although the boys take careful precautions, they get badly lost. The three emerge into unknown territory where they must fight for survival, and not just against the elements. More than once, the boys must escape from unsavory or criminal desert dwellers, though they also find some unusual allies. The experience brings the friends many new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, and their families. Murnane writes an exciting adventure story with risky scenarios that give his characters many chances to show their courage and considerable resourcefulness in matters like orienteering, handling a rattlesnake, and finding water. The dramatic, eerie desert setting is a greatly effective backdrop that’s described with vivid authenticity. More than that, the novel also explores thorny issues like the Vietnam War, assassinations, and racism. In one episode, for example, the boys investigate a deserted Manzanar—a kind of shameful ghost town. Also thorny, and central to the book, are fraught father-and-son relationships and cultural expectations around masculinity, leading to emotional rapprochements. The ending indulges in some wish-fulfillment rewards, but it’s a feel-good conclusion that readers will enjoy.

A thoughtful and entertaining coming-of-age tale with a vibrant setting.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70822-355-7

Page Count: 267

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A lush and darkly twisted modern fairy tale.

HOUSE OF HOLLOW

Ten years ago, the three Hollow sisters disappeared from an Edinburgh street while on holiday. A month later, they came back.

When Iris, Vivi, and Grey returned, they couldn’t remember anything of their ordeal. Their dark hair turned white, and their blue eyes became black. They sported identical hook-shaped scars on their necks. Despite their altered appearances, their parents were elated to return home to London with them. However, their father soon began to believe that they were not really his daughters, a conviction that led to his suicide. Since then, the story of now 17-year-old Iris and her older sisters has been like catnip to online sleuths, and their ethereal beauty and uncanny ability to bend people to their wills and intoxicate them with dangerous desire add to their mystique. When Grey, now an internationally famous fashion designer and model, goes missing, Iris and Vivi, with help from Grey’s Korean British boyfriend, Tyler, set out to find her and the truth behind their disappearance. Their search takes on a new urgency when they find a decomposing body blooming with white flowers in Grey’s apartment and they are pursued by a murderous man wearing a horned bull’s skull mask. Iris’ smart and assured narration easily carries a fast-paced story entwining themes of grief and loss with elements of folklore and some very inventive body horror. The pervasive feeling of dread builds to a shocking twist.

A lush and darkly twisted modern fairy tale. (Horror. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11034-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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