An enticing read that is certain to keep both the hero and audience guessing at every carefully plotted reveal. (Fantasy....

THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK

A truly splendid amalgamation of mystery, magic and creeping horror will spellbind the middle-grade set.

Jack has lived much of his life feeling invisible, beneath the notice of bullies, friends or even his family. Yet when his parents divorce and he’s sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Hazelwood, Iowa, Jack is shocked to discover that everyone in the town notices him. What’s more, some of them seem to want to kill him. As he befriends some of the local kids, Jack reluctantly looks into the town’s past and unravels the mystery behind why children have been disappearing there for decades and what his connection may be. This children's debut beautifully evokes the feeling of otherness kids come to feel around their peers and at the same time creates an entirely original mythology. The mystery deepens with each chapter, revealing exactly the right amount with each step. Answers are doled out so meticulously that readers will be continually intrigued rather than frustrated. The result is the ultimate page-turner.

An enticing read that is certain to keep both the hero and audience guessing at every carefully plotted reveal. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-05670-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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THE VISCONTI HOUSE

Whether it’s because she would rather write stories alone than hang out with her gossiping classmates or because she lives in the Visconti House, a crumbling Italianate villa (which, everyone assumes, must be haunted), Year 8 Aussie Laura Horton always feels like an outsider. When Leon Murphy, a loner in his own right, moves in with his odd grandmother, Laura notices that they have more in common than she originally thought, including wanting to solve the mystery behind Mr. Visconti, his once-ornate house and the woman he loved. Debut author Edgar’s quiet, old-fashioned storytelling, in which the children can sound older than their years, celebrates curiosity, hidden treasures and impromptu gatherings with spirited and creative family members. In the process of ferreting out the secrets of Mr. Visconti and his formerly splendid estate (with written letters, interviews and intuition rather than the Internet), Laura also discovers friendship, romance and accepting the differences in herself and others. Fans of Blue Balliett and Elise Broach’s Shakespeare’s Secret (2005) will enjoy another puzzle to solve. (author’s note) (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5019-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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