The speed and tidiness of the ending may disappoint savvy readers, but this book may find an audience with those who can...

FIX ME

To what lengths would you go to see a good friend who can only be found in a drug-induced haze? One addict is about to find out.

When readers meet Penelope, the white teen has been using Fix, a (fictional) once-legal antidepressant and mood stabilizer, since she started hanging out with drug-addicted Rose, a brown-skinned Latina. Pen’s ready to stop, but Fix can be a hard drug to quit: it allows users to control their hallucinations, and for Pen this includes the ghostly hallucination Nate, a fairly regular visitor since her sister’s death a year before. Logically, Pen knows the dangers of Fix; she can see what Fix is doing to Rose and has read about the health problems associated with long-term use. But can she say goodbye to Nate? Meanwhile, girls are going missing, turning her friends and fellow users into suspects. Cronkhite does much well; she captures the “I need to stop but can’t” feelings of an addict beautifully as well as the feelings of peer pressure, isolation, and depression that often accompany teenage years. The Fix addiction, Nate, and the mystery of the missing girls come to a head in the third act, and this is where the book suffers. In a rush to tie up all of her plot threads, Cronkhite undoes much of the work that makes Pen’s story so believable and compelling.

The speed and tidiness of the ending may disappoint savvy readers, but this book may find an audience with those who can happily suspend disbelief. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63583-008-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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