A haunting and hopeful story of self-discovery.

VIOLET GHOSTS

Fifteen-year-old Dani knows a few things for sure: He is a transgender boy, ghosts are real, and most victims are murdered by someone they know.

After escaping Dani’s abusive father, he and his mother move to Michigan. His only friend is Sarah, an angry teenage ghost who hates men and keeps the details of her murder a closely guarded secret. When they meet Patricia, another ghost, lying dazed in the woods, they decide they need to find a way to help the ghosts of murdered women. Meanwhile, Dani reluctantly begins to befriend taciturn classmate Seiji, who is also haunted by ghosts both real and metaphorical. Ghosts are not the scary things in this story, however. The characters, the living ones as well as the ghosts, explicitly and honestly deal with the traumas of physical and sexual abuse, rape, violence, abandonment, suicide, and murder. Some forgive, some hide, and some rage while others feel inexplicably drawn to return again and again to their abusers. The author evokes the setting of the late 1990s and early 2000s with plenty of pop-culture references, but the characters’ knowledge and attitudes about transgender issues are often optimistically—but not impossibly—contemporary. Dani, Patricia, and other major characters seem to be White; Sarah has pale brown skin and black hair, and Seiji is White and Japanese.

A haunting and hopeful story of self-discovery. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0463-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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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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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