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

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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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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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