An infectious coming-of-age story about a self-effacing but gifted young man trying to discover his place in the world.

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Twelve Feet Down

A debut YA novel chronicles a teenager’s crusade to construct a refuge.

It’s been a rough year for Joe McKinnon. In a car accident, Joe lost both his father and his leg. But now Joe is taking the building skills that he absorbed from his dad to raise his own hideaway—a hidden, underground condo—in the woods near his home and without his mother’s knowledge. While Joe wants to handle this project all by himself, he nevertheless recruits his father’s friend Fred Fergussen, who lines up the supplies for him and makes suggestions. An on-site accident soon endangers the project, adding to the guilt that Joe feels about lying to his mother so he can get out of the house to work on his condo. But before long, the teen’s elderly neighbor Mr. Pruitt and Tin Man, a roofer friend of his father, are in on the secret, with Joe’s grudging acquiescence: “Anyone who wants to build a condo in the woods, come on down! Just push the one-legged kid aside.” The project gets delayed because of other developments in his life: a possible girlfriend, a speech he fears giving, a friend’s injury, a fatal car accident. Despite the tragedies that are never too far away, the protagonist’s intelligence and his willingness to trust pay off during some difficult moments. In Joe, Penteros has created a vivid character who bears the cares of the world on his shoulders, which is why others are willing to assist him. In this effective tale, they see all the good in Joe, even if he can’t often see it in himself. Told in Joe’s voice, Penteros’ spare narrative reflects an average teen’s life, with the character often giving too much weight to mundane events, slowing down the story. But the fully developed protagonist skillfully handles some obstacles that life throws into his path. And along the way, Joe emerges from tumultuous times with the help of friends he didn’t know he had and a sympathetic mother he too often tried to push away.

An infectious coming-of-age story about a self-effacing but gifted young man trying to discover his place in the world.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 301

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2016

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An atmospheric and creepy page-turner.

I KILLED ZOE SPANOS

Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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