REALITY CHECK

After his adored ex-girlfriend Clea disappears from her ritzy Vermont boarding school, Cody—a working-class boy who, after a devastating knee injury, went from high-school football star to high-school dropout—travels to Vermont to find her, and becomes embroiled in a dangerous mystery. Cody may be from the wrong side of the tracks and have limited scholastic ability, but he possesses love, loyalty and his own kind of dogged smarts. The setup feels unnecessarily protracted, but once Cody arrives in Vermont, the thriller/mystery angle kicks in and the material becomes much more absorbing. After a series of nicely plotted twists and subterfuges, Cody ends up working at the Dover Academy, where he meets Clea’s classmates, some of the school’s staff and various locals, who may or may not have had a role in her disappearance. The climax is unexpected and not enormously credible, but it doesn’t matter, because by that point readers will be frantically turning pages and fully invested in Abrahams’s message of true love conquering all obstacles. (Mystery. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-122766-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Laura Geringer/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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