A mystery romance that works too hard on both fronts.

LIE TO ME

Amelia tries to go back to being a normal teenager after nearly dying from a fall, but when other local girls start turning up dead, she thinks what happened to her was no accident.

But who would want to hurt her? Her creepy neighbor? A jealous girl from school? Her best friend, who’s harboring a secret? Her new boyfriend is willing to help her figure it out. Her relationship with Liam started after her fall, and it’s intense—not only because of how she feels when she’s with him, but also because of the yearslong feud between Liam and Amelia’s brother, Hunter. Adding to the confusion is Amelia’s blooming attraction for her friend Grace, which doesn’t dissipate even after Amelia starts dating Liam. In a novel that struggles to maintain the tension, Ward (Where She Fell, 2018, etc.) explores what it’s like to suspect the people closest to you of wanting to cause you harm. This is a worthy premise, but the plot feels obvious and predictable while the dialogue often feels trite and forced, causing the book to lag in energy and suspense. Most characters are white; Grace has brown skin and is a lesbian.

A mystery romance that works too hard on both fronts. (Suspense. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-53810-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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A deliciously disturbing, twisted tale.

MARY, WILL I DIE?

Teens endure fallout from a game of Bloody Mary.

Everybody’s done it at some point: You look in the mirror and repeat the name Bloody Mary. Sometimes, the legend says, you’ll see your true love. Sometimes they say you’ll see the ghost’s face, and it means you will die young. But these four fourth grade friends—Grace, Calvin, Elena, and Steph—didn’t count on their little game’s still affecting them five years later. They were just having some spooky fun in Elena’s deceased grandmother’s room, after all. But now, even after all these years have passed, each of them still sees a shape behind them whenever they look in a mirror. But the frights really begin when a new girl arrives at school. Her name is Mary. The author effectively and slowly ratchets the tension and dread, crafting some cleverly frightening sequences that fans of the genre will love. Less effective is the characterization: As each chapter pivots perspectives, some readers may have to double back and sort out which of the troubled teens they’re following. As the scares pile up and the descent into madness moves forward, the characterization gets a bit crisper, but the first few chapters may pose a bit of a hurdle. The novel’s conclusion is satisfactory, but the real highlights here are the spooky sequences. The teens are all presumed White.

A deliciously disturbing, twisted tale. (Horror. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-67927-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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