LATCHKEY

From the Archivist Wasp series , Vol. 2

Excruciating, cathartic, and triumphant.

Near-future science-fiction crimes bleed into dystopian horror centuries later in a wildly imaginative genre-hybrid sequel to Archivist Wasp (2015).

For three years, Isabel (ex-Archivist and no longer going by “Wasp”) and the former shrine girls have gradually created a home; now savage invaders force them to fight to defend it. While hiding refugees in tunnels buried since the Before, Isabel again encounters the ghosts of a nameless, long-dead supersoldier and his partner. Instead of passing peacefully on to the afterlife, the ghosts are seeking their lost memories of the Latchkey Project that engineered them, secrets that could guarantee Isabel’s future…or destroy it. Less mythic in tone and more conventional in structure than the first, this title nonetheless delivers gripping action while deepening mysteries in restrained prose studded with flashes of vulgar brutality and startling poetry. Isabel’s post-apocalyptic world, with all its graphic violence and cruelty, still exhibits solidarity, tenderness, and joy. Allusions to names of varying ethnicities and a range of skin tones indicate an unobtrusive diversity. The emotional core of the story resides in the magnificently understated relationship between damaged, heartsick Isabel and the arrogant yet oddly fragile ghost, a kinship forged from their shared raw courage, ferocious loyalty, and bone-deep integrity, punctuated by an uncertain, heart-piercing vulnerability. Although this narrative provides satisfying closure, readers will hope for more about these unlikely allies.

Excruciating, cathartic, and triumphant. (Science fiction/horror. 12-adult)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9889124-8-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mythic Delirium

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

FLAMER

Buy it. Read it. Share it.

The last week at Scouting camp highlights accomplishments and humiliations that last a lifetime.

Aiden, a fat, biracial (Filipino and White), soon-to-be high schooler, is in his last week of Boy Scout camp in 1995. Each day documents events, from bonding over fireside songs and learning important skills to the micro- and macroaggressions that follow an adolescent boy of color who presents as effeminate and is queer. As the week moves on, readers learn more about Aiden and his life, from his stressful home with an emotionally abusive father to his love of Catholicism and being an altar server. The stress of a new school, bullies who are ever present, and struggles with identity drive Aiden to a breaking point, one that’s familiar to many young people. The monochromatic illustrations, sometimes highlighted with red, orange, and yellow, are timeless moments of a remembered childhood. The use of red to highlight the tangible (firelight, a Swiss Army knife) and represent the intangible (passion, sorrow, and hope) is a master class in simplicity. But the true star of this book is the writing, which describes a boy who could live in any decade on his journey of self-discovery. This is a story that will be read and reread, and for some, it will be the defining book of their adolescence.

Buy it. Read it. Share it. (afterword, resources) (Graphic fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-641-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

SUMMER RENTAL

A fun and scary slasher thriller.

Awards & Accolades

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A Fourth of July celebration turns deadly for a group of teens in Ross’ YA psychological thriller.

Eighteen-year-old Riley March and four girlfriends—Cam, Val, Nia, and Blake— are off on a celebratory Independence Day weekend away, their last before they all leave for college in the fall. Their destination is the exclusive and remote Palm Key Island, the perfect location for wealthy kids to spend their leisure time. Some of their other friends from school are there, too, including Riley’s crush, Sebastian. Riley needs to make sure no one finds out her biggest secret: She really doesn’t belong in this group, as she is not rich like her friends. Their weekend of sun, booze, and partying starts to go wrong when Val disappears after a night out clubbing—she’s presumably off with a boy—and warnings of an approaching hurricane sour the mood. As the group (joined by some male friends) hunkers down, trapped inside their rental with no internet or electricity while waiting for the storm to pass, tensions build and relationships start to unravel. They learn why their summer house rental is so cheap as casualties begin mount. The author’s compelling, fast-paced thriller pays homage to slasher movies and serial killer lore with a fun hook: “Things no longer seem fun and light anymore as I remember we’re about to be trapped in a hurricane—and in a murder house, no less. The only thing worse than that is being trapped in a hurricane, in a murder house, in complete darkness.” As the scares spiral, Ross maintains a tight focus on the complex, complicated relationship dynamics within the group of teen girls, all conveyed from Riley’s outsider/insider’s perspective. Still reeling from a close friend’s death by suicide the year before, the group’s secrets start to spill out, unveiling a history of bullying, competition, and privilege in a well-balanced narrative arc.

A fun and scary slasher thriller.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 978-0988256828

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Ic13 Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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