WILD AND CROOKED

Thought-provoking.

In three voices and six “acts,” Thomas’ (When Light Left Us, 2018, etc.) latest plumbs the prejudices behind a murder that divided two families and their Kentucky town.

What’s in a name? Plenty. Gay, feminist Kalyn-Rose Spence’s surname is synonymous with poverty and being targeted for harassment; the residents of Samsboro (aka “Shitsboro”) never forgave her father for murdering a local golden boy decades earlier. But is he guilty? Wealthy, “gay and confused” Gus Peake, who has cerebral palsy, two moms, and a “glorious menagerie of issues” including aphasia, feels doomed to be “the disabled kid” or “the kid whose dad got murdered.” When their pasts threaten their budding friendship, Shakespeare-inflected, uber-analytical classmate Phil tries to “keep Capulets and Montagues from clashing” as he struggles to develop a conscience despite his anti-social personality disorder. In alternating perspectives, the trio endeavor to forge their own identities as they seek clues that may reveal Gus' father's real killer. The mystery resolves in a last-minute rush, but the book’s real stars are its poignantly explored issues: love, social class, sexuality, homophobia, and the cycles of poverty and abuse. Kalyn’s conflicted, loving relationship with her dad is particularly well-examined. However, the teens’ heavy-handed exposition and discussions of fictional tropes and their subversion risk making their characters feel as “manufactured” and “intentionally offbeat” as the teen-targeting goth store Gus browses in, marring their refreshingly intersectional diversity. Most characters default to white.

Thought-provoking. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0002-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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