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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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