HARMONY HOUSE

A solid and quite frightening tale of the supernatural.

A girl dominated by her fanatically religious father tries to escape when he confines her inside a haunted house.

Jen knows her father is approaching insanity in his religious devotion, but since the death of her alcoholic mother, she has been trapped. When her father takes a job as the offseason caretaker of a notoriously strange hotel, she immediately senses danger. Jen gets vivid visions of the previous occupants. The building formerly had been a Catholic home for unwed mothers, run by a monsignor who, if his ghostly apparitions are accurate, was an evil and abusive person; the nun also in charge was no better. Jen finds herself endangered not only by the house, but by an apparently unhinged local boy who attacks her when she refuses his advances. Jen frequently draws from a stash of drugs she has hidden to escape mentally from the stress, but she begins to realize that she must actually escape the house. Scenes of the miseries inflicted on the building’s previous occupants are interspersed with Jen’s narration, ramping up the tension. As events build to a truly frightening climax, Jen may have to rely on something supernatural to save her. Sheff writes solid suspense that recalls the classics: both Stephen King’s The Shining and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, among others.

A solid and quite frightening tale of the supernatural. (Horror. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-233709-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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