FALTER KINGDOM

A teenage boy is possessed by a demon.

There is a tunnel near the park where the local high school kids smoke, drink, and canoodle. The most daring teens run through the tunnel and come out possessed by a demon. The tunnel is called Falter Kingdom, and one afternoon, disaffected senior Hunter finds himself hanging out by the tunnel with his friends. (Absent racial cues, readers will likely infer that he’s white.) After a couple beers, Hunter runs through the tunnel, contracting a demon that goes by H. Hunter could get an exorcism, but he likes the spark H brings to his life, despite the demon’s villainous motivations. Told through Hunter’s first-person, present-tense perspective, occasionally addressing H as “you” and other times adopting “we” as the demon digs in, the novel sets up an interesting idea but does very little with it. Hunter is an unappealing protagonist, with little apparent ambition or investment. His possession muddles his motivations and characteristics, but everyone around him is so flat and his relationships so attenuated, there’s little emotional resonance. The novel thuds on and on, hitting the same brooding note over and over, and when the violent climax finally comes there’s simply not enough on the line for readers to care.

An ennui-soaked misfire. (Horror. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939419-75-0

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Fans hoping for a novelization equal to the caliber of the original web series will be sorely disappointed.

CARMILLA

A present-day web series, based on the 1872 Gothic vampire novella, gets a prose adaptation.

Laura, newly arrived at an Austrian university, investigates the disappearance of her roommate, which is covered up by school administration. Her suspicions rise when she’s quickly given a new roommate: the snarky, mysterious Carmilla. Laura’s initial relationship with Danny, a female teaching assistant, is superseded by an attraction to Carmilla even after she discovers that Carmilla is a vampire. Overall, the translation from web series to novel is less than smooth. The writing lacks sophistication, and humor which plays well onscreen falls flat on the page. Remarkably, while the web series has narrative reason for taking place solely in Laura’s dorm room (it’s here she films her video blogs chronicling the investigation), the novel largely follows suit without the same excuse. Though Laura’s identity as a lesbian is well-portrayed, the genderqueer representation of one of her friends is abysmal: LaFontaine’s pronouns are introduced halfway through the book and the whole matter is handled awkwardly, especially in connection to their friend’s difficulty with their identity and name change. What’s more, although they don’t identify as male or female, no one raises questions when LaFontaine is one of five “girls” to be kidnapped—not even LaFontaine. All characters seem to be white.

Fans hoping for a novelization equal to the caliber of the original web series will be sorely disappointed. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0130-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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