Engaging but not without flaw.

CAST NO SHADOW

A boy without a shadow falls for a 20th-century ghost girl in this supernatural graphic novel.

White, diminutive Greg has been angry and sullen ever since his mom, mayor of their small town, died three years ago. The current mayor’s son is a dark-skinned jock, a “professional buffoon and arrogant jerk extraordinaire,” and Greg is convinced that his dad’s new girlfriend (visually coded as Asian-American) is trying to take the place of his mom. But it’s the summer before 10th grade, and his white, curvy best friend, Layla, is ready for them to get up to some shenanigans at the local rumored-to-be-haunted house. No one has ever seen a ghost there—until shadowless Greg arrives and comes face to face with ghostly Eleanor, a white teenager who’s been dead for decades. They become instantly smitten. But someone—or something—is starting to wreak havoc on the town, and everyone believes it’s Greg. It’s up to Greg, Layla, and Eleanor to put a stop to it. While all questions are ultimately answered, many aspects of the worldbuilding go underexplored, leaving both the character development and the internal logic of the world feeling rushed. Espinosa’s grayscale art (tone is by Eckman-Lawn) has a storyboard softness that is reassuring and appealing. Both the intrusive narrator and adolescent characters are prone to disability insults (“Lame”; “Are you…blind?”), and the haunting gleefully and consciously piles up stale horror tropes, including an “Indian burial ground” (complete with totem pole; Greg points out in frustration that “Indians didn’t even have totem poles in the northeast!”).

Engaging but not without flaw. (Graphic supernatural fiction. 10-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59643-877-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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