For reluctant readers with a taste for crime, this title should scratch the itch.

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THICKER THAN WATER

From the Orca Soundings series

When his friend goes missing, Zack Bernard realizes her disappearance is not the only mystery.

The story focuses on Zack, a West Indian–Canadian teen living in Toronto who’s a fan of true-crime shows and plans to become a detective. When his friend Ella Larson disappears, Zack can’t let the police be the only ones investigating—especially because he knows something the police don’t: Zack saw Ella with his guidance-counselor father at the mall and, later, getting into his car. Afraid to jeopardize his father’s job, Zack withholds this information. Zack’s dad refuses to talk to him about what he saw, his friend Ayo Mohammed thinks he needs to respect the confidentiality of his father’s records, and they both think Zack should let the police handle everything. But his gut instinct says something terrible happened to Ella, and Zack’s going to do everything he can to find out what it is even if he finds out something he didn’t want to know. A challenge with hi-lo books is displayed with this title: The plot is too complex for the format, forcing an overly tidy and sanitized conclusion to the central mystery. However, readers will definitely keep turning the pages; Zack’s and Ayo’s immigrant families provide some subtle characterization for each of them.

For reluctant readers with a taste for crime, this title should scratch the itch. (Mystery/thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2198-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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  • Newbery Honor Book

LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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