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THE ATTRACTION

HOUSE OF ILLUSION

An engaging and moving blend of comedy, suspense, and a well-defined male teen voice.

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In this YA novel, a creepy roadside attraction becomes a dangerous catalyst for a teenager, unraveling family secrets.

Sixteen-year-old Nate Cortland eagerly anticipates that his upcoming summer job at the San Francisco Bay Area’s Golden Gate Racquet Club will have a positive effect on his dating life. Those high hopes are dashed when his single mom, a cyberforensics expert, informs Nate and his 11-year-old sister, Lily, that they’ll be spending the summer with Uncle Kevin “just to be on the safe side.” His mom’s sudden “I have a bad feeling” hunches have meant middle-of-the-night moves from one apartment to another before, but she’s never sent them to stay with her brother (“A precarious branch on the family tree,” thinks Nate). Kevin, who lives on the Sacramento River Delta in a Podunk town, runs a weird roadside attraction called the Owl Harbor House of Illusion. Even worse, the siblings’ mom confiscates their cellphones so they won’t be tracked, leaving them at Kevin’s with just a landline and no internet. Throw in the mystery of mom’s disappearance; Nate’s feelings for soulful teen Mia; the seeming emergence of Lily’s psychic abilities; and the House of Illusion’s tie to a legendary treasure and the menacing bumblers who seek it, and the protagonist will have a summer to remember. Anchored by the authenticity of Nate’s voice (observant, salty, and genuinely witty), Polito’s second YA novel is a deft mix of tension, humor, and surprising poignancy, with a “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” twist. The narrative is lively with situational antics and Nate’s penchant for amusing quips, yet his angry anxiety about his mother and his irritation with and protectiveness of his little sister ring true. Also realistic are Nate’s maturing sense of self, evident in his encounters with some dubious local teens, and his changing views of his offbeat family. Mia’s calming presence, hard-won after a personal tragedy that she confides to Nate (and the reason she paints), is a graceful counterpoint.

An engaging and moving blend of comedy, suspense, and a well-defined male teen voice.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953944-16-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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