THE VIPER WITHIN

After his vicar father deserted the family, 16-year-old Jon lost his Christian faith. Falling under the spell of a classmate, Jeremiah, founder of the Brotherhood of the Hebetheus, Jon has joined four other boys as his disciple. Now, under Jeremiah’s direction, they kidnap a Hindu girl whom Jeremiah claims is a terrorist. From their hideout, an empty cottage with a dead woman in it (undiscovered for some days), they record grandiose demands and send them to the media. The novel, set in contemporary England, quickly bogs down in long speeches and didactic commentary. A less-than-credible plot doesn’t help, but the real problem is that once at the cottage, the novel goes around in circles rather than build steadily to the climax. Characters lose and regain their faith in Jeremiah; each turn provides the author a new opportunity to pontificate on global warming, consumerism and fear-mongering until the reader, too, feels like a hostage. Although Mills claims to be a former cult member, Judy Waite’s Forbidden (2004), offers greater insight into cult psychology in a far better novel. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 10, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-84465-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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A deftly layered sports thriller populated with fierce girls.

THEY'LL NEVER CATCH US

Edgewater is famous for two things: the unsolved murders of three teen cross-country runners 10 years ago and the events of the previous summer when Stella Steckler did something unforgivable to a competitor.

Cross-country runners and sisters Stella and Ellie are brutal, tender—and out for blood when it comes to one another. Stella is focused on running as her ticket out of town and into college on a sports scholarship; her similarly gifted younger sister is slowly making her way into the top spot on their high school team. When newcomer Mila Keene joins the team, the sisters become entangled in a complex and ambivalent dynamic with her. When Mila goes missing while out on a run, it throws the sisters, their team, and the whole town into upheaval. Alternating first-person perspectives between Stella and Ellie, this thriller lays out two primary narratives—that of Mila’s heartbreaking case and the relationship between Stella and Ellie—and expertly layers them with a cold-case murder mystery and an exhilarating sports tale. This novel is also a thoughtful examination of socio-economic challenges, the impact of crushing personal secrets, and the ways female athletes suffer under the weight of misogyny, especially when they are aggressively competitive. Most characters read as White; the Steckler family is Jewish, and Stella is queer. Naomi, Mila’s best friend, is Korean American and lesbian.

A deftly layered sports thriller populated with fierce girls. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11432-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A standing ovation.

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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