A cinematic, page-ripping debut.

A WICKED MAGIC

California teens get caught up in a witchy misadventure.

Though Daniela and Liss, who live in a small coastal town in Northern California, share a close friendship, each wrestles with private demons. Dark-haired Dan copes with depression through self-harm, feeling each time she cuts herself that it might bring her some peace. And blonde-haired Liss struggles with poor self-esteem thanks, in part, to an abusive, overdemanding mother with a drinking problem. Together the best friends hope their discovery of the mysterious Black Book in the giveaway box outside a grocery store will fill their inner voids, offering them an irresistible spell for becoming witches and other magical charms, each promising to be one that will change their lives for the better. Unfortunately for these would-be witches, the spell that really changes things results in the abduction of Liss’ boyfriend by an evil spirit and a terrible breach in the girls’ friendship. It is only when the two begin to open up to each other and trust mutual friend Alexa, who has hidden magical powers, that they summon the moxie to try to undo the damage they wrought. In her debut, Laurens weaves an intricate, suspense-filled tale mingling everyday teen angst with otherworldly sorcery. Alternating among the perspectives of the three lead characters, the shifting narrative tantalizes teen readers with the possibility of magic. Dan is Mexican American; Liss and Alexa are cued as white.

A cinematic, page-ripping debut. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11725-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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