A subpar mystery buoyed by a crackling gumshoe protagonist.

THE BIKER'S BROTHER

A biker is accused of murder.

Seventeen-year-old white Josh Williams is determined to make the most of his promising football skills. His older brother, Jamie, spent time on the field in high school but wound up involved with the local biker gang, the Annihilators. When a national biker gang, the Popeyes, rides into town and threatens to swallow up the Annihilators’ territory, Jamie ends up accused of murdering the meth-cooking brother of Josh’s crush, white beauty Brenda. Josh believes his brother is innocent and investigates, pulling at a tangled web of biker politics in search of the true killer. Josh is an engaging protagonist, and the author builds his multifaceted personality through his interactions with authority figures, friends, and the assorted bikers. Unfortunately that’s where the characterization stops. None of the secondary characters are given more than one or two notable characteristics. Most disappointingly, Brenda is the thinnest of them all, introduced as “a teenage Scarlett Johansson, but a taller, leaner version,” and never developed further than that. This would be less noticeable if the shoe leather of the mystery were more satisfying to chew on, but the author doesn’t make it tasty enough. Josh stumbles on to the truth, and everything is settled on technicality and circumstance. There’s no satisfying “Eureka!” climax, and the novel just ends on an even note.

A subpar mystery buoyed by a crackling gumshoe protagonist. (Mystery. 14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-936-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Only for readers who are really good at suspending disbelief.

H2O

Grab an umbrella: The latest fictional civilization-ending threat is deadly rain.

Ruby’s having the best night of her life, drunkenly making out with her crush in a hot tub at a party. Suddenly, the host’s parents arrive and, panicking, drag everyone indoors. The radio broadcasts an emergency message about fatal rain. Space bacteria have entered the atmosphere on an asteroid, replicated in the clouds’ moisture and now rain death upon humanity. Just humanity, though—inexplicably, this bacteria’s apparently harmless to plants and other animals. After struggling to live through the first few days—finding uncontaminated water sources is a particular challenge—Ruby decides to travel across the country to find her father. The situation’s horrifying, but what gives the deaths resonance is how sad they are, rather than simply scary (although they are plenty gory). Ruby’s narration is unsophisticated and, especially in the beginning, self-conscious, keeping readers from immersing themselves in the story, much as the strange butterfly graphic that censors curse words does. Additionally, Ruby’s progressively vapid characterization makes her hard to root for. Her biggest redeeming trait’s her love of animals. The novel also has the usual post-apocalyptic tropes—nerdy companion, military of dubious trustworthiness, human threats, a young child to take care of and so forth. The ending is immensely unsatisfying.

Only for readers who are really good at suspending disbelief. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4926-0654-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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