While the book holds an appeal for adult readers of teen books, it might be hard-pressed to find fans in its target audience.

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS

Shy, quiet, and content with the simple way of life in Rowan’s Glen—a back-to-the-land commune in the Missouri Ozarks— teen Ivy Templeton is the exact opposite of her cousin Heather, and Ivy resents the growing separation between herself and the girl she once called a sister and best friend.

When the Glen revives the May Day celebration after 20-plus years, Ivy, whose father is white and mother is Mexican, isn’t surprised when Heather is chosen to be the new May Queen. And some of the Glen’s elders are even less surprised when Heather vanishes after the celebration, which eerily echoes the disappearance and murder of the last May Queen. This present-day mystery is ripe with superstition and serves up an atmospheric, authentic-feeling setting, but it suffers in the characterization department. Too many of the villains have flat, uncomplicated motives, and teen readers might have difficulty relating to Ivy in particular. Her narrative voice doesn’t ring true, and her behavior is inconsistent: she is by turns a shy, stuttering girl and a swearing, blunt woman who is not bashful about sex and drug use. In the end, the book reads much more like an adult romance and/or mystery novel than a novel for teens.

While the book holds an appeal for adult readers of teen books, it might be hard-pressed to find fans in its target audience. (Mystery. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-64041-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in.

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE

A young woman’s return to her monied boarding school is haunted by the trauma of her girlfriend’s recent death and the school’s rumored history involving witchcraft in this contemporary thriller.

Felicity Morrow’s senior year was cut short after her girlfriend Alex died, and her decision to return to the Dalloway School because “being friendless at Dalloway was better than being friendless anywhere else” makes clear her feelings of isolation. It’s seemingly inevitable that she’ll be drawn into the orbit of infamous new student Ellis Haley, who, despite her young age, has already written a Pulitzer-winning novel. Amid a fantastical, darkly atmospheric haze of cigarette smoke and hard alcohol, Felicity agrees to assist Ellis in her research about the Dalloway Five, girls whose gruesome deaths centuries earlier at the school are shrouded in mystery and who were the subject of her own abandoned senior thesis. Richly imagined queer characters, including Ellis’ older nonbinary sibling, Quinn, are the stars of this story, which incrementally reveals truths about Alex’s death as it winds the bond between Felicity and Ellis ever tighter, spinning a tale rife with literary references, magnetic romance, and occasionally melodramatic but menacing gothic tropes out to its end. The protagonists are cued White; there is ethnic diversity in secondary and background characters.

A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30582-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more