A good ghost story that drowns in the lake of superficial inclusion.

PEOPLE OF THE LAKE

A new girl threatens small-town life when she finds that recent deaths possibly connect to the supernatural underworld.

With her mother’s new boyfriend moving in, rising high school junior Clara Morris decides to spend the summer with her father at Redmarch Lake. When Neil, a local teen, dies, Clara enlists Ash, Neil’s ex-girlfriend, and semi-local boy, Hector, to investigate. Beneath the surface of town superstition and unexplained occurrences they uncover otherworldly, shadowy forces at play. Though plot and protagonist provide for an engaging story linked to a mirrored, paranormal realm, attempts at including diversity become problematic. The purely physical descriptions of Clara and her deceased twin, Zoe, ultimately emphasize the white default by assuming rather than naming race. Additionally, Indigenous peoples and their cultures feel treated as set pieces. A single Indigenous character, Deputy Chief Elaine Cross River, is described generically as a “tough-looking Native American woman,” with no mention of her nation. References to specific Native nations and their histories seem like devices to root this work of fiction in reality rather than adding meaningful context. At the same time, significant objects and drawings, though implied to be Native, are framed as being unlike “any other earthly culture,” feeding into mystical Indian tropes, and the implications that this haunted place results from or relates to some Native influence reflect many stereotypes.

A good ghost story that drowns in the lake of superficial inclusion. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5107-4516-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Fans of empowering feminist fairy-tale retellings will love this.

THE GRIMROSE GIRLS

From the Grimrose Girls series , Vol. 1

Four reimagined fairy-tale heroines must confront their inner demons to break a curse.

Ella, Yuki, and Rory attend the prestigious Grimrose Académie for Elite Students in the Swiss Alps. They are currently grieving the death of one of their best friends, and while Ari’s death by drowning has been deemed either an accident or suicide, her closest friends have their doubts. When they find an old book of fairy tales hidden in Ari’s things, full of strange annotations in her handwriting, the girls start working—along with new student Nani—to investigate Ari’s suspicious death. As they put together the pieces and discover other deaths that happened at Grimrose, they start to wonder if there was magic involved in Ari’s death—magic that may also be at the core of their very lives, cursing them to unhappy endings. Grief, identity, and friendship intersect in this enthralling mystery with dark magical undertones that ingeniously plays with fairy-tale tropes to tell a feminist story about empowerment and grappling with how to break away from the confines of societal expectations of girls. Reminiscent of the works of Anna-Marie McLemore and Elana K. Arnold, this book ends with the promise of more to come. The main cast is queer and features diversity in disability and mental health. Rory and Ella default to White; Yuki’s name cues her as Japanese, and Nani is Black and Native Hawaiian.

Fans of empowering feminist fairy-tale retellings will love this. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-887-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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