A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters.

RETRO

A no-technology challenge in a small Northern California town turns sinister.

After Samantha shoplifts but lets her friend Luna take the fall for her crime, Luna is rightfully enraged—and not least because her mother, a Spanish immigrant, is at risk of losing her visa to remain in the U.S., making any sort of criminal activity especially harmful. Luna uploads a video of a drunk Samantha bad-mouthing her friends and other classmates to Limbo, the social media app everyone’s obsessed with. Even though she has regrets and deletes it shortly after, she isn’t fast enough, and the video goes viral. The harsh response results in Samantha’s attempting to take her own life. The fact that she survives alleviates some of Luna’s guilt, but she still sends a private message to the app developers, explaining her role in what happened and asking for their help as she seeks accountability. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Limbo CEO comes to their school and proposes a challenge: Any student who manages to go the entire school year without using technology, including their phones, will receive a full-ride scholarship to college. As the year progresses, however, some of Luna’s friends disappear and the real nature of #RetroChallenge becomes clear. Though the fast pace will appeal to reluctant readers, it comes at the expense of character development and relationship-building, making it hard to feel attached to any of them. The stilted dialogue poses another obstacle.

A disappointing, unfulfilling journey with forgettable characters. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-66590-275-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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An overall entertaining read.

THE PRETENDERS

From the Similars series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to The Similars (2018), tensions rise as the villains reveal a ploy to exact revenge on the Ten and their families and ultimately take over the world.

When Emma Chance returns to her elite boarding school, Darkwood Academy, for her senior year, things are different: Her best friend, Ollie Ward, is back while Levi Gravelle, Ollie’s clone and Emma’s love interest, has been imprisoned on Castor Island. More importantly, Emma is coming to terms with the contents of a letter from Gravelle which states that she is Eden, a Similar created to replace the original Emma, who died as a child. To complicate matters further, other clones—who are not Similars—infiltrate Darkwood, and Emma and her friends uncover a plot that threatens not only the lives of everyone they care about, but also the world as they know it. Hanover wastes no time delving right into the action; readers unfamiliar with the first book may get lost. This duology closer is largely predictable and often filled with loopholes, but the fast-paced narrative and one unexpected plot twist make for an engaging ride. As before, most of the primary characters read as white, and supporting characters remain underdeveloped. Despite its flaws and often implausible turns of events, the novel calls attention to larger questions of identity, selfhood, and what it means to be human.

An overall entertaining read. (Dystopia. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6513-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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