Overlong and underthought, it’s a mystery best left unsolved.

BLUR

From the Blur series , Vol. 1

A teenage girl is found dead in the local lake. There’s no sign of foul play, but Daniel Byers has a hair-raising experience that causes him to think there’s murder afoot.

When Daniel attends Emily Jackson’s funeral, the last thing he expects to see is her ghost pleading with him to solve her murder. After this supernatural opening, Daniel embarks on a clunky whodunit that scarcely raises the pulse. The key to a good mystery is pacing and stakes, but instead, James provides uninspired melodrama and red herrings to spare. It is never clear why Daniel needs to solve this case, and the hocus-pocus that prods him along comes off as hokey rather than eerie. As sleuths, Daniel and his friend Kyle make for a dull pair. Inane girl troubles and run-of-the-mill family issues are poorly integrated, feeling like padding that distracts from the maniac on the loose. The book’s lone highlight is the ending, when all is revealed in an absurd confrontation that cribs from the best pulp noirs of the 1930s and ’40s. This ending jars with the rest of the book, but the camp on display supplies a much-needed shot in the arm.

Overlong and underthought, it’s a mystery best left unsolved. (Mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1477847275

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Skyscape

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

THE LAKE

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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