Liberally peppered with both swears (from both times) and Dickens references, this gritty coming-of-age story is best suited...

THE DOOR THAT LED TO WHERE

In Printz honoree Gardner’s (Maggot Moon, 2014) time-travel historical mystery, 17-year-old white Londoner AJ Flynn, having passed only one of his qualifying exams, faces a bleak future until he discovers a door to the 1830s and the possibility of a different life in another century.

AJ’s mom considers him “a waste of space," his drunken stepfather is “a huge, blancmange slug of a man," and all he knows about his father is that he is dead. He lands a junior position in a law firm and, while tidying the archives one day, comes upon a key labeled with his name. Finding the door that fits the key, AJ learns not only how his father died, but that he time traveled to obtain 19th-century snuffboxes that he sold in the 21st century at great profit. AJ’s Turkish friend, Slim, is being pursued by a gangster whose girlfriend he dated, while his friend Leon, a Jamaican, is on the wrong side of the dealer whose drugs killed his mother. AJ takes both through the portal, where they find a chance to start over. The convoluted time-travel mystery has verve, but readers will encounter some bumps. AJ’s fondness for Dickens (he excelled at English if nothing else) prepares him somewhat for life in the early 19th century, though the ease with which the characters adapt to different centuries strains credibility. Too, many of the large cast of characters add nothing to the plot beyond a thicket of complications.

Liberally peppered with both swears (from both times) and Dickens references, this gritty coming-of-age story is best suited to readers as fundamentally romantic as AJ. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-54997-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

CROOKED KINGDOM

From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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