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Eerie, painful and beautifully spine-chilling

The intertwined stories of two teenage girls: a convicted killer and a Juilliard-bound ballerina.

Amber's an inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center, with a story to tell about the night the doors all opened at the prison. Violet's a dancer bound for New York City and artistic success. The girls have secrets, and each takes the chance to let tidbits of truth slip into her narrative, each using her own unique and identifiable voice in alternating chapters. Amber rarely speaks only for herself, identifying almost exclusively with the other prisoners. "Some of us knew for sure," she solemnly explains, speaking collectively. "Some of us kept track of days." Violet, on the other hand, is deeply self-absorbed, worried over the three-years-past death of her incarcerated best friend but only for how it affects her and her chance at Juilliard. As the girls' stories unfold, it becomes increasingly clear that Amber's and Violet's musings occur three years apart—yet are nonetheless intimately connected. The wholly realistic view of adolescents meeting the criminal justice system (with a heartbreaking contrast portrayed between the treatment of a wealthy girl and that of her poor multiracial friend) is touched at first with the slimmest twist of an otherworldly creepiness, escalating finally to the truly hair-raising and macabre.

Eerie, painful and beautifully spine-chilling . (Supernatural suspense. 15-17)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61620-372-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Gory horror that thinks nihilist incoherence is the same thing as edgy. It's wrong

A court-mandated hike becomes zombie flick, laden with 1980s pop-culture references.

Seventeen-year-old Nick's life could be better. Since his worthless father, the Dude, "Has Other Concerns" than buying groceries, Nick works at the chicken factory to earn food and medicine for his oddball baby sister. An accident at the factory leaves Nick jailed for...well, it's not clear what he's jailed for. Living in an unjust world, perhaps? Nick’s troupe of realistically foulmouthed delinquents are soon fighting off chicken-gnawing, entrails-chomping zombies at the top of a mountain, calling one another “fag” every step of the way. In prose that consists of far too many one-sentence and even one-word paragraphs ("Had to see. / If it was. /  Skoal. / Another step"), Nick has masturbatory fantasies about the hottest girl zombie, even while mooning over the object of his affections, Petal Gazes, a manic pixie punk-rock girl with anime eyes and a "Bauhaus" hoodie. Like Pete Hautman’s Rash (2006), this over-the-top boys'-prison-camp adventure resembles a grown-up Holes (1998), but lacks the heart and ultimate optimism of either. The sexed-up face-eating may please dedicated fans of the shambling undead, despite self-aware sarcasm that explicitly mocks the commercialism of current zombie fandom.

Gory horror that thinks nihilist incoherence is the same thing as edgy. It's wrong . (Horror. 15-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5947-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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From the Tweed & Nightingale series , Vol. 2

Busy, but at least there’s a death ray

A pair of teen detectives bops between London and Cairo in a steampunk adventure that would probably make a better movie than it does a book.

Octavia Nightingale and Sebastian Tweed return in this sequel to The Lazarus Machine (2012), solving mysteries in a Victorian London jam-packed with automatons powered by human souls and carriages running on Tesla turbines. Their search for Octavia’s kidnapped mother entangles them in a larger mystery, with missing scientists and Egyptophile cultists around every corner. Each solved puzzle reveals a further complication: traitors, lizard people, rocket launchers—even a secret world. Perhaps the number of threads is too many to keep under control; some characters are dropped abruptly, while one major arc comes to a character-building ending without ever developing through a beginning or middle. The overall mystery is impenetrable, but the set dressing of “vacuum tubes and and gears, clocks, glass beakers filled with strange liquids, and disassembled automatons” makes the right backdrop for a novel that climaxes with an airship-vs.-ornithopter dogfight over London. Purists take note: Among the myriad errors and inconsistencies are copious anachronisms detracting from the Victorian feel.

Busy, but at least there’s a death ray . (Steampunk. 15-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61614-857-7

Page Count: 295

Publisher: Pyr/Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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