A compulsively readable and pleasantly different zombie tale, all the way to its pull-no-punches end

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TWICE SHY

And you think your mom is weird.

A carrier of Zombie Virus since birth, Ani died two years ago. Since then, her mom—formerly a top ZV researcher, now Ani’s high school nurse—has kept her daughter’s body more or less intact and her brain-eating impulse largely in check, all the while feverishly working on a cure. With her mom’s encouragement but against her natural inclinations, Ani joins the emo crowd at school to justify her pale skin, decaying-body-concealing clothing and job at the gaming shop, whose incense helps to mask the ever-present scent of formaldehyde. Less an action-adventure than a study of this peculiar mother-daughter relationship, Freivald’s debut milks all humor inherent in the situation while avoiding none of the darkness. The juxtaposition of the aggressively normal against the completely bizarre—Ani and “Dr. Frankenmom” unpack the bananas before heading downstairs into the state-of-the-art lab for more serum testing—is just right. As junior year lurches along (just like Ani on her perpetually broken hip), Ani finds herself chafing against her mother’s restrictions and caught between two boys: the seriously unhinged emo Dylan, who is obsessed with death, and the utterly adorable jock Mike, a childhood friend whose psycho girlfriend targets Ani for bullying. If some plot twists and secondary characterization falter, Ani’s intelligent, ZV-enhanced snark never does.

A compulsively readable and pleasantly different zombie tale, all the way to its pull-no-punches end . (Horror. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936564-50-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: JournalStone

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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An intimate portrait of female friendship laced with literal and metaphorical magic.

WHEN WE WERE MAGIC

Getting through high school requires more than a little bit of magic.

On prom night, when Alexis accidentally kills Josh Harper, she panics and summons her five best friends—Paulie, Roya, Iris, Marcelina, and Maryam—for help. Alexis knows she can rely on them, not only because of their unshakeable friendship, but because of what they have in common: the ability to do magic. Attempting to make things right, the girls cast a spell but are left with a disconnected collection of Josh’s body parts, including a cold, glassy version of his heart. They divide them up and agree to dispose of what is left of Josh, piece by piece. Alexis insists on witnessing each body-part-releasing ceremony, in the process exploring her bonds with her friends—and, in one case, feelings that go far beyond friendship. But as their relationships strengthen, the spell takes its toll: Every time they lose a body part, the girls lose something too, forcing them to rethink how they define themselves and each other. This work of speculative fiction is a profoundly thoughtful exploration of female friendship, love, growth, and identity. The fully realized characters are diverse in ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity. While the final two-thirds of the book are beautifully paced, balancing introspection and character development with plot, the first third at times feels weighed down by explanation and backstory.

An intimate portrait of female friendship laced with literal and metaphorical magic. (Speculative fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3287-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A slasher flick spliced with Crime and Punishment, this engrossing debut novel asks complex philosophical questions in a...

NOT EVEN BONES

From the Market of Monsters series , Vol. 1

An adolescent, yet Nietzschean, examination of humanity and horror.

Nita is a monster. Literally. She can heal her own wounds and even block her pain receptors. But she and her mother also deal in monsters, species regulated by the International Non-Human Police, selling their body parts on the black market. Her ghoulish mother hunts and kills, while Nita dissects them with a meditative grace, trying to think of herself as innocent. But when Nita’s conscience inconveniently prevents her from vivisecting a live specimen, she’s kidnapped and taken to the Amazon, caged by people in the same business. Menaced by a zannie (creatures that feed off physical pain) and a ruthless woman, Nita, who is mixed species (with a brown-skinned human father and a nonhuman mother), has to figure out how to escape and whether she has any morals to live by. The vivid setting, Mercado de la Muerte (one of several Death Markets worldwide) in a sweltering South American jungle populated by buyers, sellers, and sold, is matched by a zipping plot interspersed with deliciously horrifying and gory scenes of dismemberment and destruction. Equally intriguing is the constant musing on what makes a monster, how people respond to trauma and control, and how one’s choices affirm or deny one’s own humanity.

A slasher flick spliced with Crime and Punishment, this engrossing debut novel asks complex philosophical questions in a pleasingly hard-to-stomach way. (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-86354-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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