Reluctant readers will enjoy exploring Leo’s loyalty to his family and ideals, strong threads woven through the fabric of...

SECOND IN COMMAND

After his mother departs on a six-month tour of duty, 16-year-old Leo, his father, and his younger siblings, Jack and Reina, are left to cope.

Leo is on his way becoming an Eagle Scout, he wants to join the Summer Youth Police Academy, and he is committed to embodying the principles of the Scout Oath. His workaholic father, who is hardly ever home, sees him as the reliable one and gives Leo too much responsibility for the care of his siblings. Leo has always vowed to have Jack’s back, but when the 13-year-old starts acting out and gets in serious trouble, Leo finds it hard to hold up his end of the bargain. He becomes close to Zen, a girl who belongs to their support group for families of deployed military personnel, but that relationship is later put at risk. Leo must figure out how to help his brother while also pursuing his own dreams. In her heartfelt debut novel that explores the challenges facing military families left at home, Van effectively utilizes verse to impeccably convey the feelings of sadness, anger, displacement, and lack of belonging of young people on the brink of adulthood. Leo’s father is a Cuban immigrant, and Zen is Korean-American; other characters are assumed white.

Reluctant readers will enjoy exploring Leo’s loyalty to his family and ideals, strong threads woven through the fabric of this emotional story. (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5383-8262-2

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

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THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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