A dark and twisty psychological thriller that straddles the question of what it means to be human.

UNCANNY

A girl struggles to remember her involvement in her stepsister’s death, aided by an artificially intelligent therapeutic companion.

White teen Cora Dietrich can’t remember much of what happened the night her stepsister, Hannah, (also white) fell down the stairs to her death. They’d both been drinking, but Cora was far more intoxicated. An advanced camera nodule on her temple called a Cerapin could have captured everything, and the girls’ home AI, Franka, could have called for help, but both were turned off before the fall. As the new girl in town, Cora’s painted as suspicious by Hannah’s friends, and she’s certain that Gary, Hannah’s father, believes she murdered his daughter. Cora won’t help with the investigation, so Gary enlists the aid of a state-of-the-art therapeutic companion AI named Rafiq. Cora is quickly bowled over by handsome, olive-skinned Rafiq since he offers respite from her ever surveilling parents. Rafiq helps Cora uncover the truth of that night, all the while unraveling the secrets of the sisters’ fraught relationship as he reviews Hannah’s archive of Cerapin videos. Told through Cora’s and Rafiq’s perspectives, the story offers an intimate exploration of Cora’s claustrophobic world and Rafiq’s burgeoning autonomy. Readers will be hooked by the mystery and compelled by Cora’s and Rafiq’s distinctly surprising trajectories. Rafiq’s coloring and Muslim name go unexplored in the text.

A dark and twisty psychological thriller that straddles the question of what it means to be human. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4646-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Skyscape

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.

THE CRUEL PRINCE

From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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