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

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. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A descriptive and atmospheric paranormal social thriller that could be a bit tighter.

After a Nigerian British girl goes off to an exclusive boarding school that seems to prey on less-privileged students, she discovers there might be some truth behind an urban legend.

Ife Adebola joins the Urban Achievers scholarship program at pricey, high-pressure Nithercott School, arriving shortly after a student called Leon mysteriously disappeared. Gossip says he’s a victim of the glowing-eyed Changing Man who targets the lonely, leaving them changed. Ife doesn’t believe in the myth, but amid the stresses of Nithercott’s competitive, privileged, majority-white environment, where she is constantly reminded of her state school background, she does miss her friends and family. When Malika, a fellow Black scholarship student, disappears and then returns, acting strangely devoid of personality, Ife worries the Changing Man is real—and that she’s next. Ife joins forces with classmate Bijal and Benny, Leon’s younger brother, to uncover the truth about who the Changing Man is and what he wants. Culminating in a detailed, gory, and extended climactic battle, this verbose thriller tempts readers with a nefarious mystery involving racial and class-based violence but never quite lives up to its potential and peters out thematically by its explosive finale. However, this debut offers highly visually evocative and eerie descriptions of characters and events and will appeal to fans of creature horror, social commentary, and dark academia.

A descriptive and atmospheric paranormal social thriller that could be a bit tighter. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781250868138

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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An irresistible elixir of romance and suspense.

In this Western mythology–inspired romance, a teen with a disdain for magic and an immortal familiar join forces to uncover the truth behind the relentless winter that devastates the region.

Before endless winter destroyed their family’s farm, 17-year-old Ellery Evans never questioned their parents’ devotion to the supernatural, but after five years of unanswered prayers, Ellery lets go of their faith and moves in with Charley, their cousin who lives in the city, seeking a steady paycheck as a real solution to their family’s problems. One night after work at the diner, they bump into Knox, the “hot weird guy” who never wears a coat when he picks up his takeout order. Danger follows in Knox’s shadow. During his last five years in the human realm, his goddess has mysteriously ignored all his attempts to contact her. Now, he’s hunted by her shades, who may be plotting against her. To stay in the human realm, Knox needs a contract with a human, or he’ll be powerless to fight the shades. At first, Ellery teams up with Knox reluctantly, but a complicated attraction soon stirs between them. Amid looming, supernatural threats, Ellery confronts their insecurities over trusting others with the support of found family who challenge them to grow and affirm their self-worth. Both Ellery and Knox are cued white; Lukens’ characters reflect racial diversity in the world around the leads.

An irresistible elixir of romance and suspense. (Supernatural romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781665916257

Page Count: 352

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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