A lackluster mystery that bows under the weight of narrative technique.

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Teen drama with a murderous twist.

When 17-year-old British girl Eva goes missing, her friends and family hope for the best—but when her body is found murdered in the woods, suspicion quickly turns toward her boyfriend, Luke. The relationship between Luke and Eva is slowly revealed to have been toxic and damaging, making Luke the perfect suspect, but that role is actually quite popular, with Eva having had a secret relationship and suspicious strangers appearing at pivotal moments in the narrative. But can Luke’s lingering allies find out enough to exonerate him before his trial? As the story is told in multiple voices, including through Eva’s diary, online exchanges, and narrative from several characters’ first-person points of view, the drama and mystery have to work hard to surface amongst the confusing shifts in perspectives. Twists and turns abound in the novel, though often without logic or meaningful contribution to the plot, such as when Luke’s friend hears that he is pleading guilty to Eva’s murder, but confusingly, he claims he only said as much to a fellow inmate to seem more intimidating. Characters mainly default to white with the exception of some secondary characters.

A lackluster mystery that bows under the weight of narrative technique. (Mystery. 14-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-349-00317-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atom

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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FOLLOW ME

From the Amateurs series , Vol. 2

The teenage detectives from The Amateurs (2016) return, sent on a chase by their adversary.

It’s three months after Seneca, Aerin, Maddox, and Madison discovered who killed Seneca’s mother and Aerin’s sister, but the escape of the killer—their former friend, Brett—is haunting them. Then Chelsea Dawson, an Instagram-obsessed white girl, disappears. The next day, the disappearance is inexplicably posted on Case Not Closed, a cold-case message board, with a post from Brett that draws the Amateurs’ suspicions. While biracial Seneca takes the lead in the investigation, torn between catching Brett and dealing with her confusing feelings for white boy Maddox, white girl Aerin is weepy and distracted by thoughts of her sister. Korean-American Madison barely registers in solving the case or with readers, and Maddox seems mostly concerned about how white boy Jeff, Chelsea’s ex and a suspect in her disappearance, is apparently putting the moves on Seneca. Throughout the novel, Brett is spinning his web to teach Chelsea a lesson and make the Amateurs realize they’re outclassed. While there’s enough back story to explain their first case, the immature and two-dimensional foursome are amateurs in both name and ability. Unlike the first, this so-called mystery is utterly lacking in suspense or tension, overflows with leaps of logic, and offers nothing to indicate the teen detectives are any match for Brett—a fatal flaw.

Skip. (Mystery. 14-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4228-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking.

TEEN KILLERS CLUB

An accused murderer is thrust into an assassin training program.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere is serving hard time after a hazy night with her former best friend, Rose, which ended with Rose’s body in her lap, an emotional trial, and the media moniker the “Girl from Hell.” After her caseworker, Dave, assures Signal there’s no way she’ll get a successful appeal, he offers her an alternative: being shipped off to a mysterious camp and enrolled in a top-secret government training program unofficially known as the Teen Killers Club. There, Signal and other adolescent Class A felons (the most dangerous kind) undergo various drills—among them, dismembering fake corpses and dissolving flesh in acid—in preparation for eventually being used as assassins against government targets. The teens have been injected with a device remotely controlled by their trainers that will kill them if they attempt to escape the camp or otherwise disobey orders. As Signal nurses an attraction to sensitive tattooed Javier and fights her feelings for handsome sociopath Erik, she begins to piece together what really happened that night with Rose. Sparks crafts a page-turner with a disturbingly unusual premise, snappy dialogue, and characters that go deeper than their heinous crimes. Signal and Erik are assumed White; love interest Javier is cued as Latinx, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking. (Thriller. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-229-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Overall, a solid debut.

THE HEARTBEATS OF WING JONES

In 1995 Atlanta, a mixed-race girl finds a way to stand out on her own terms.

Wing and her brother, Marcus, attract attention because they're half Chinese, half black. While Marcus is a football hero, Wing suffers bullying from a mean girl and secretly pines for Aaron, Marcus' best friend, a black boy. Everything changes when Marcus, while driving drunk, kills two people and falls into a coma. Wing feels completely alone; neither her mother nor her grandmothers, LaoLao and Granny Dee, seem to know what to do. So Wing starts running in secret, prodded by her imaginary dragon and lioness, which she has not seen since her father died. She feels free when she runs, as though she can outrun all her mixed emotions. When Aaron finds out, he encourages Wing, and they grow closer even as the situation at home worsens. A running sponsorship could save her family—but in trying to chase that sponsorship, will Wing lose the one thing that makes her feel free? The choice of time period feels unjustified—this story could have been equally true in 2016—and the device of the dragon and lioness feels forced. Nevertheless, Wing's sense of isolation is well-captured, and her grief and confusion are raw and moving.

Overall, a solid debut. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55502-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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