An uneven mix of paranormal mystery and realistic fiction.

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THE PRECIOUS DREADFUL

A white teenage girl is haunted by disturbing, repressed memories of a childhood friend.

Looking to stave off the boredom of summer vacation, Teddi Alder joins the local library’s teen writing group. Her life becomes unexpectedly complicated by both a new romance with white, crushworthy Aidan and the mysterious appearance of a little girl whom only Teddi sees. Once she begins writing, memories of her long-lost childhood friend Corey seep into her consciousness and her writing. Although she had always thought that Corey’s family moved away when they were young, she discovers, to her horror, that he went missing when he was 7 and that the search for him was soon called off because he was “a couple shades too dark to matter much.” She spends her days and sleepless nights haunted by the twin mysteries of the ghost girl and Corey while juggling an increasingly dysfunctional relationship with Aidan. The writing process helps her to work through her repressed memories of the dark and violent events leading up to Corey’s disappearance, prompting her to question how much her mother knew about what happened. The dialogue among Teddi and her friends isn’t always convincing, and the suspenseful arc of this story is unbalanced by a love triangle that develops erratically and feels out of place in the context of the overall plot.

An uneven mix of paranormal mystery and realistic fiction. (Paranormal mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5072-0277-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A slow, hazy beginning eventually sharpens before charging into an electric, enchanting end.

A SONG BELOW WATER

Two young women literally and figuratively embody #BlackGirlMagic.

Sixteen and with deep brown skin, Tavia is a siren who uses American Sign Language to push against the mesmerizing call that burns like a fire in her throat and could mean being silenced forever if it is released. Plagued with mysterious body ailments and no knowledge of her biological heritage to inform a diagnosis, light-brown–skinned 16-year-old Effie, Tavia’s sister-by-choice, is haunted by survivor’s guilt after a traumatic childhood incident. Portland, Oregon, provides a memorable setting for Morrow’s solid and intentional unpacking of myths around black people and their aversion to water activities through their stories. Chapters alternating first-person narration between the two protagonists set up Tavia to often be the voice of social justice inquiry, especially regarding prejudice against sirens, who are always black women. Effie’s storyline focuses on a different type of identity exploration as she untangles her complicated family history. Lengthy exposition with confusing plot turns and a reveal of ethnically diverse magical beings and their powers slows the first part of the book. The action picks up toward the middle, rising to create an exciting new contemporary fantasy. In this parallel world, black female empowerment is standing up for yourself and others while simultaneously navigating love, physical and emotional violence, and the responsibility of immense supernatural power.

A slow, hazy beginning eventually sharpens before charging into an electric, enchanting end. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31532-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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