A ghostly love story that’s heartfelt and bittersweet.

KNEE DEEP

A teenager’s love for her longtime friend and neighbor defies the odds in a paranormal romance by the author of Surf Ed. (2007).

New Orleanian Camille Darveau has known Antwone Despre all her life but decided she loved him two years ago. In their part of the South, some people may disapprove of their potential coupling—she’s white and he’s African American. But she bravely makes her first move by inviting Antwone to her sixteenth birthday party, although he has a girlfriend, Emily (who pompously dubs herself “M—,” pronounced “Em”). Unfortunately, as it’s 2005, Hurricane Katrina soon hits and wreaks devastation. Camille learns that Antwone is among the dead. He does, however, return as a spirit by periodically entering the body of Camille’s friend, Beano Benoit, a gay high school quarterback. Only Camille sees Antwone; others think Beano is trying to connect with M— and possibly cheating on his new love interest, Lewis Sinclair. This doesn’t stop Camille from trying to summon Antwone, as she feels their love is mutual. But while trouble is stirring, with Beano aware of what’s occasionally happening to him and Camille at variance with M—, Camille grudgingly acknowledges the best option may be to let Antwone go. Novelist and TV screenwriter Hoeffner weaves an absorbing, sorrowful tale from this material. Katrina isn’t merely a plot device but a real-life tragedy that touches characters throughout, and Camille has multiple run-ins with a dangerous man taking advantage of survivors of the hurricane. There are few shared scenes with Antwone and Camille prior to his death. But it’s clear as the narrative progresses that Camille’s love and longing are genuine, and potentially having to say goodbye is heartbreaking for her. Hoeffner suitably details the French Quarter and, eventually, Mardi Gras, while subtly incorporating instances of racism and a family that discourages interracial relationships. It’s a sometimes-bleak story, though the author doesn’t let it slip into overwhelming gloom.

A ghostly love story that’s heartfelt and bittersweet.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64603-009-5

Page Count: 219

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2020

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences.

REALM BREAKER

When the realm is in danger, only a small band of misfits can save Allward.

An in medias res prologue, told from the point of view of the lone squire accompanying the 12 Companions of the Realm, tosses readers into the thick of a quest. Half the Companions are human heroes and half are immortal Elders; they seek to stop a rogue thief and his wizard accomplice from using a magical Spindle to tear a passage between worlds for nefarious ends. A disastrous battle sends squire Andry fleeing with Cortael’s sword so villain Taristan can’t get his hands on it. Grieving Elder Dom requires both a person of Corblood (a descendant of human travelers from another realm) and the Spindleblade Andry protects to stop Taristan from bringing ruin to the realm. Dom seeks Cortael’s secret daughter, Corayne, a bright but sheltered teenager with a pirate mother. At times the narrative tension is undermined by flashbacks that readers already know the conclusions to and by occasional repetition caused by the multiple point-of-view jumps, but there’s a wide variety of action scenes, daring escapes, and betrayals. Many tropes and character types are familiar, but exquisite descriptions and clashing motivations result in a nuanced, sprawling realm with a sense of complicated history. This world is highly diverse in terms of both skin tone and in the refreshing range of roles female characters inhabit.

An epic series opener of old-school high fantasy catering to modern audiences. (map) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287262-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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