A pleasingly original contribution to the paranormal-romance genre.

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BLACK BIRD OF THE GALLOWS

A teenage girl discovers what happens when the new boy next door is literally a harbinger of doom in this supernatural YA novel.

Angie Dovage, 17, has a secret identity that only her two closest friends know about—but she’s not a superhero: she DJs at a local club as “Sparo,” disguised in a bright purple wig and big, green sunglasses. She also has other things that she’d prefer to keep hidden; for instance, she doesn’t like talking about her childhood with an addict mother living in a Volkswagen van and how she was finally returned to her father’s custody. But her new next-door neighbor and classmate, Reece Fernandez, may have even bigger secrets. Angie saw him with a strange man whose face impossibly transformed, right before her eyes. Reece also appears to have a private, haunting sorrow of some kind, and he’s oddly alarmed by bees. As Angie has more encounters with him, it’s eventually revealed that the face-changing man is a cursed creature called a Beekeeper whose bees’ stings turn people into paranoid killers. As for Reece, he and his fellow crow people are also cursed and attracted to sites of tragic destruction. Despite this, Angie finds herself deeply drawn to him. She can’t stop the cataclysm that will hit her town, but can she save herself, her friends, and Reece? One of the most successful elements of Kassel’s debut novel is its mythmaking. Rather than drawing on tired tropes such as vampire, werewolf, or fairy lore, she creates an original set of cursed beings with hints of a still-wider mythology, including a mysterious figure called the Strawman. The face-changing man with bees crawling out of his mouth is the genuine stuff of nightmares. Reece’s crow people are mysterious, but their actions are also based on real-life corvids’ natural behavior. Kassel’s characterization is also strong; for example, Angie’s music and DJ persona give her a way to work through her issues and show her strengths. Some of the emotions on display can be rather melodramatic, but they’re appropriate enough for teenagers, especially considering the novel’s big events.

A pleasingly original contribution to the paranormal-romance genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63375-814-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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