Buckets full of gross, but are readers guano scoop up an entire series? Snot likely.

FEAR THE BARFITRON

From the Monster Juice series , Vol. 1

A blatant bid for the Goosebumps audience, with added gushes of vomit.

Nerdy middle schooler Chris discovers that the old-age home at which he volunteers is populated by decrepit, bingo-loving vampires, werewolves and other monsters. As if that’s not terrifying enough, the home is attacked by an army of cat-sized “sussuroblats,” cockroaches with sharp teeth in drooling human mouths. The plot makes a convenient framework on which to hang tantalizing references to grease, farts, school-lunch items like “Salisbury Snake” and suchlike. They escalate into actual juicy burps, funky smells, cascades of phlegmy goo in decorator hues and encounters with the odd slimy tentacle or crunchy spider before the main attraction begins: hurling, and lots of it. As it turns out, learning that the butyric acid in vomit is death to sussuroblats, Chris and his buddies need only manage to lead them all into the local amusement park’s dizzying Gravitron and have them spew all over each other to dissolve the threat. Easy peasy.

Buckets full of gross, but are readers guano scoop up an entire series? Snot likely. (Gross-out horror. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-448-46226-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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A didactic blueprint disguised as a supernatural treasure map.

GHOST GIRL

A girl who delights in the macabre harnesses her inherited supernatural ability.

It’s not just her stark white hair that makes 11-year-old Zee Puckett stand out in nowheresville Knobb’s Ferry. She’s a storyteller, a Mary Shelley fangirl, and is being raised by her 21-year-old high school dropout sister while their father looks for work upstate (cue the wayward glances from the affluent demography). Don’t pity her, because Zee doesn’t acquiesce to snobbery, bullying, or pretty much anything that confronts her. But a dog with bleeding eyes in a cemetery gives her pause—momentarily—because the beast is just the tip of the wicked that has this way come to town. Time to get some help from ghosts. The creepy supernatural current continues throughout, intermingled with very real forays into bullying (Zee won’t stand for it or for the notion that good girls need to act nice), body positivity, socio-economic status and social hierarchy, and mental health. This debut from a promising writer involves a navigation of caste systems, self-esteem, and villainy that exists in an interesting world with intriguing characters, but they receive a flat, two-dimensional treatment that ultimately makes the book feel like one is learning a ho-hum lesson in morality. Zee is presumably White (as is her rich-girl nemesis–cum-comrade, Nellie). Her best friend, Elijah, is cued as Black. Warning: this just might spur frenzied requests for Frankenstein.

A didactic blueprint disguised as a supernatural treasure map. (Supernatural. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304460-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A yarn as full of magic and intrigue as any fairy tale or pirate song.

GLOOM TOWN

Two friends team up to save their town from an ancient supernatural evil in this suspenseful middle-grade novel.

In his latest work, Smith (The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away, 2019, etc.) weaves together an eerie adventure narrative as nail-biting and mysterious as Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Set in a downtrodden seaside town appropriately named Gloom, the tale follows a single mother and her son. Desperate to help in the endless struggle to make ends meet, Rory, a young dark-skinned biracial boy who takes after his father instead of his white mother, regards a job notice advertising a valet position at the opulent Foxglove Manor as a godsend. He’s so eager he overlooks the townwide speculation that the manor contains some malevolent spirit. Before long, Rory can no longer ignore the sinister butler whose face looks inhuman, the mysterious dinner guests who aren’t served food yet leave behind a pile of bones with the marrow sucked out, and a human heart found buried in the back garden. When Lord Foxglove, his enigmatic employer, discovers Rory snooping, he is forced to flee for his life. Together with best friend Izzy, a white girl who lives next door, Rory sets out to unravel the mystery of the manor and save Gloom from whatever lurks inside. Anchoring this well-paced story is a solid cast of characters whose central relationships feel authentic and grounded.

A yarn as full of magic and intrigue as any fairy tale or pirate song. (Suspense. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-84161-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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