A fast-paced Canadian reluctant reader series that spends too much time in the darkness.

GANG GIRL

From the Lorimer SideStreets series

When Sasha’s computer hacking reveals compromising information about the Russian president, her government minister father sends the Russian teen and her mother to Canada until things cool down—but trouble soon finds her in her new home.

The CREW, outwardly a popular all-girl do-gooder group, seems like the exact thing Sasha needs to turn her life around. But she quickly realizes that the gang is about making money, not giving it out. Schemes include scamming nursing home residents out of their bank information, entrapping pedophiles with seminaked photos, and creating a fake animal rights foundation. Martha, the leader, blackmails Sasha to keep her in line, forcing her to decide how far she’s willing to go to meet the group’s increasingly extreme demands. In Epic Fail, by Cristy Watson (Dead to Me, 2016, etc.), white teen Jared fails to warn his friend Kenzie about his brother and his violent friends. Her rape and subsequent torment continue to haunt him. In Saving Grad, by Karen Spafford-Fitz (Vanish, 2013, etc.), 17-year-old Vienna, who has some Métis heritage, takes advantage of her stepfather’s brief hospitalization to escape his domestic violence and get herself and her mother to safety. Sixteen-year-old Kanika, who is black, is abducted, gang-raped, and forced into prostitution in Ride or Die, by Wanda Lauren Taylor. The endings of these gritty books are, at best, mixed. Unfortunately, while the stories themselves are compelling, most end on notes of uncertainty that don’t indicate that any real healing took place or that perpetrators were fully held to account. In addition to the diverse protagonists, many secondary characters also bring diversity to the series, including a Chinese-Canadian adoptee, a gay high school student, and a young woman who uses a wheelchair.

A fast-paced Canadian reluctant reader series that spends too much time in the darkness. (Fiction. 16-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4594-1288-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: James Lorimer

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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An atmospheric and creepy page-turner.

I KILLED ZOE SPANOS

Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A very full mixed bag.

KINGSBANE

From the Empirium Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In the sequel to Furyborn (2018), Rielle and Eliana struggle across time with their powers and prophesied destinies.

Giving readers only brief recaps, this book throws them right into complicated storylines in this large, lovingly detailed fantasy world filled with multiple countries, two different time periods, and hostile angels. Newly ordained Rielle contends with villainous Corien’s interest in her, the weakening gate that holds the angels at bay, and distrust from those who don’t believe her to be the Sun Queen. A thousand years in the future, Eliana chafes under her unwanted destiny and finds her fear of losing herself to her powers (like the Blood Queen) warring with her need to save those close to her. The rigid alternation between time-separated storylines initially feels overstuffed, undermining tension, but once more characters get point-of-view chapters and parallels start paying off, the pace picks up. The multiethnic cast (human versus angelic is the only divide with weight) includes characters of many sexual orientations, and their romantic storylines include love triangles, casual dalliances, steady couples, and couples willing to invite in a third. While many of the physically intimate scenes are loving, some are rougher, including ones that cross lines of clear consent and introduce a level of violence that many young readers will not be ready for. The ending brings heartbreaking twists to prime readers for the trilogy’s conclusion.

A very full mixed bag. (map, list of elements) (Fantasy. 17-adult)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5665-4

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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