A brisk, compelling thriller about heroic young people fighting the greatest of evils.

THE INSTITUTE

A supernaturally tinged YA adventure novel that’s set against the backdrop of the Apocalypse.

Wirth’s (An Unlikely Season, 2017, etc.) novel features a cast of seemingly ordinary California teens: 17-year-old Melissa Jenkins; Gabriel Rucker, who’s the same age, and a star quarterback on the high school football team; his stepbrothers Michael and Aaron; and their friends Daniel and Donnie Conan. A huge, ominous storm is brewing over the West Coast of the United States, leading TV commentators to reference the end of the world. Unbeknownst to any of these characters, Jonas Smith—a scientist code-named “Scarecrow” who works at a secret facility called the Serenity Institute, for a mysterious figure known as “Monarch”—is perfecting a process that essentially turns people into living zombies, whom the institute can control in any way it sees fit. At first, the worlds of the institute and the teens seem totally unconnected. But as the fast-paced narrative progresses, the young people become more deeply involved in the Serenity Institute’s work—particularly when Michael is sent there to remedy his anti-social behavior, and apparently falls prey to Scarecrow’s illicit procedures. This lean and involving adventure tale, at its best, brings to mind the work of Stephen King (who recently published a very different novel titled The Institute) and Dean R. Koontz, but it’s squarely aimed at a YA audience. It’s also steeped in religious imagery and ideas; indeed, the storm in the background is just one of many physical manifestations of the Christian end times: “I think that angels watch over us—the chosen ones at least,” muses one character, once the novel’s action takes off. “The angels give us signals and messages, and if we listen and pay attention to the messages, good things will happen.” It’s not for nothing that Scarecrow thinks, “Have I sold my soul?As the cast of teens runs afoul of the institute and its garish minions, Wirth handles the requisite chases very effectively. Indeed, at times, the book brings to mind a smooth combination of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and Left Behind.

A brisk, compelling thriller about heroic young people fighting the greatest of evils.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 251

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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