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

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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Heart-pounding.

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CEMETERY BOYS

A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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