By turns funny and poignant, this period mystery is a thoroughgoing delight.

THE DARK UNWINDING

"Why had life singled me out for drudgery and isolation, and to be the instrument of others' unhappiness?"

Katharine, an orphan reliant entirely upon the charity of her father's sister-in-law, has been dispatched by her horrid aunt to the estate of her father's only remaining living sibling—to declare him a lunatic and thereby settle the family's fortune on her odious cousin. The pragmatic 17-year-old is astounded and appalled to find that Stranwyne is home to a gasworks, a kiln and a foundry, along with two idyllic villages populated by some 800 souls plucked from the workhouses of London to serve and support her Uncle Tully. While far from a lunatic, Katharine's uncle is nevertheless terribly vulnerable, a man today's readers will recognize as on the autistic spectrum, a wizard with numbers and gadgets but entirely helpless in society. At the behest of handsome, gray-eyed Lane, her uncle's chief caregiver, Katharine agrees to a stay of 30 days, possibly the only free days of her entire life. Cameron, through wry, observant Katharine, spins a deliciously gothic tale peopled with appealing and not-so-appealing secondary characters, punctuated by the requisite madness and shot through with intrigue. Though readers may not be surprised by Katharine's arc, there are more than enough twists and turns along the way to maintain suspense.

By turns funny and poignant, this period mystery is a thoroughgoing delight. (Historical mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32786-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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