Appealing if familiar fantasy elements are well-handled in this debut.

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Secrets of the Sleeper

From the True Nature Series series , Vol. 1

After her mother’s death, a girl who can see in the dark tries to restart a normal high school life but keeps encountering the mysterious in Bennett’s YA fantasy.

Ten months ago, Tru Parker watched as a hit-and-run driver struck and killed her mother. She walked around in a virtual coma through the rest of her school year, and now that she’s a junior, she hopes to salvage her zombie reputation. Her best friend will help, as will her improved looks: she’s acquired a tan and extra inches in height, plus—silver lining—she lost her appetite after her mother’s death. Intriguing boyfriend opportunities present themselves: Isaac Efoti, a handsome and towering Tongan-Taiwanese, and Zander Hughes, a good-looking new student who seems strangely familiar. As Tru deals with high school issues—teachers, friends and enemies, homecoming, romance—she also shrugs off her disturbing dreams and odd experiences. These include a warm humming sensation when she touches Zander; being able to heal injuries, even a grieving student’s depression, with her touch; strange comments from others, like how Dante (another new student) calls her an “‘Idimmu’” and says he’ll keep her secret. Isaac and Phoebe, his sister, also seem to have secrets, as do Zander and his brother Peter. When Tru is kidnapped by a half-insane minion of the powerful Collector, she gains new courage and learns many startling truths about supernatural beings and her relationship to them, vowing to discover more. Though Bennett, in her debut novel, travels familiar territory here—“ordinary” but actually gorgeous teenager with special powers; werewolves and vampires; a special destiny—she lifts her story with strong writing and a good voice. Tru and her friends sound like high schoolers; they use inventive slang (“Son of a butcher,” says her best friend Ruthie, a vegetarian) and experience a good balance of concerns both frivolous and serious. Readers may feel a little overwhelmed, though, by the ending revelations, which come at a fast clip and involve much strange vocabulary like Usemi, Akharu, and Sethians. The story leaves many loose ends, no doubt to be picked up in planned sequels.

Appealing if familiar fantasy elements are well-handled in this debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 181

Publisher: What If Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

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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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