A really scary and original ghost story, well told. Read it with the lights on.

THE DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL

A rebellious 16-year-old becomes trapped in a definitely haunted old insane asylum, possibly forever.

This superior ghost story keeps the creep factor high, presenting readers with what appears to be a just-normal-ghost-folks mystery storyline before turning into a suspensefest. When Delia inherits a house—a notorious former insane asylum—from a namesake aunt, her whole family goes to stay there. It doesn’t take long for Delia to realize the place is seriously haunted, but although the house will release her family, it kills her rather than let her go. Stuck there, she meets a variety of ghosts, most of whom seem quite pleasant but none of whom can leave the premises. Delia seems to be making progress in uncovering the secret evil of the house, but her investigations threaten both her and her family. Plus, the initially friendly ghosts might not all be as they first seem. Alender creates a fascinating, eerie world that turns on a nicely original use of time and features constantly interesting characters. Delia is likable and sympathetic even as she strikes out, and the house itself becomes a character, as readers wonder who or what is at the root of the evil that lurks there. The final confrontation will have readers curling their toes.

A really scary and original ghost story, well told. Read it with the lights on. (Paranormal suspense. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-63999-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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