Gripping, thrilling, Machiavellian.

THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS

A high school sophomore discovers revenge comes with a price.

When Ember Williams entered Heller High, she had a particular goal in mind: to join the Red Court, a powerful secret organization with a track record for, among other things, influencing student elections, altering grades, and spreading slander. Carrying out these actions doesn’t cost money but instead leaves the requester indebted, with a favor that can be called in at the Red Court’s whim. Ember’s invitation finally comes, setting in motion her four-step plan to take down the Queen of Hearts—the group’s leader—and dismantle the organization as revenge for an accident the Court caused that left her sister, April, paralyzed. At first, her missions seem relatively mild—posing for a picture to incite a breakup or leaving notes to request favors from indebted students—and they even lead to a budding relationship with Chase Merriman, a know-it-all with whom Ember competes to be top of their class. However, the missions soon escalate, affecting those closest to her—like her best friend, Gideon—and as Ember learns more about her sister’s accident, she begins to reevaluate both her intentions and her decision to stay in the Court. Laurin’s novel tackles the destructive power of high school bullying through characters who are compelling in their complexity; their deceitfulness is often a means of survival. Most characters are White by default; Gideon is gay and biracial (White/Korean).

Gripping, thrilling, Machiavellian. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-14587-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Summery fun and games with feeling.

THE SUMMER OF BROKEN RULES

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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