DEAD RULES

Not your usual paranormal romance.

Romeo and Juliet meets Daniel Waters in folklorist Russell’s wry teen debut. After a deadly freak bowling accident on a double date, high-school junior Jana Webster (of Webster and Haynes, regional champions in Duet Acting, as she’s quick to mention) finds herself in Dead School, right in her hometown of Asheville, N.C. As in real high school, rules and cliques govern Dead School. Jana, a Riser (with a promising placement after graduation), is supposed to avoid Sliders (whose fates are on a downward spiral). Since Sliders still have an attachment to Earth, she asks Slider Mars to help her communicate with her boyfriend and love of her life, Michael Haynes. While Jana plots to kill Michael so they can be together forever, Mars believes Dead School is a chance to learn how to change their destinies. The pacing intensifies as Jana discovers the truth about her death, and the real star-crossed lovers emerge. Sarcastic quips and double entendres drive the story’s humor, but it’s the sensitivity of the supporting characters (like Beatrice, who after inviting her crush to her church picnic and sneaking off to the woods with him so he can feel her up, dies when a stray lawn dart strikes her head) that allows Jana (and readers) to see laughter within tragedy.

Wickedly clever. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-198670-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.

GRIS GRIMLY'S FRANKENSTEIN

A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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