Predictability and muddled language make this a mystery not worth solving.

I SPY SOMETHING WICKED

Mysteries and ghosts abound when Tessa Kelling is named heir to her late uncle’s remote estate.

Seventeen-year-old Tessa remembers being saved from falling out of a tree as a child by Andre, a strange, handsome man who disappears after introducing himself. Now, Andre becomes her ghostly roommate (and maybe something more) when Tessa inherits her uncle’s house and moves to Ama, Oklahoma. But the house is nothing like she imagined—in fact, it harbors secrets that Tessa’s uncle leaves her clues about and which lead to multiple break-ins peppered throughout the story, without much substance in between. The mystery plotline is introduced early on but then forgotten about until the end of the narrative, where it finally shows up to give readers a speedy and transparent climax. Tessa shows keen insight about what’s going on in her new house and is the most well-developed character; the rest of the cast is unfortunately one-dimensional. The only part of the novel that evokes real emotion involves a very difficult experience Tessa endures without her mother’s support, although her trauma is never quite dealt with. All characters are assumed white.

Predictability and muddled language make this a mystery not worth solving. (Mystery. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7327713-9-0

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Doodle and Peck Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An often engaging narrative about coping with anxiety with an optimistic outlook, despite a few flaws.

PHOEBE UNFIRED

Jahn’s latest YA novel follows a high school junior on her summer break who struggles with germaphobia in Manhattan during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phoebe Benson isn’t a typical 16-year-old; she’s not worried about what people think of her, or even about extending her curfew. Instead, she’s scared of accidentally endangering her kid brother with Covid-19––so scared, in fact, that she’s nearly completely isolated herself. Phoebe’s anxiety has made it so that she hasn’t touched anyone in two years—not even members of her family. Although she’s seen several therapists, her anxiety hasn’t greatly lessened, and her parents don’t know how to deal with her. Still, she manages to take a pottery class and hold down a part-time job at independent bookstore Dust Jackets. But when she hears the beautiful sound of a violin in the subway station on her way to work one day––and the young man playing the instrument smiles at her––she’s tempted to move outside her cozy quarantine bubble. Phoebe’s best friend, Walter, the 64-year-old owner of Dust Jackets, lost his wife in a tragic accident years before and also has problems with anxiety. So when he encourages Phoebe to read a new book about living with anxious thoughts, she takes on the challenge. Jahn navigates the romance and social-commentary aspects of her book expertly, and the work offers strong attention to detail, a well-paced plot, and intriguing major characters. But although the author delivers fine dialogue, her teenage characters read young, and her innocent depiction of high school, although suitable for younger teens and tweens, may not entice older teenagers. Side players also don’t receive very deep characterization, independent from Phoebe’s own arc, which is a missed opportunity to dive into how friends and family can help those with mental illness.

An often engaging narrative about coping with anxiety with an optimistic outlook, despite a few flaws.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 271

Publisher: BermLord

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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A fast-paced adventure starring a strong, likable female protagonist.

RASHA

At 14, plucky and precocious Rasha moves to her grandmother’s rural village, where she transforms herself and her new community.

After Rasha’s parents divorce, her father leaves Bangladesh for Canada. Soon after, her embittered mother announces that she is moving to Australia—but she isn’t taking Rasha with her. Instead, she sends Rasha to live with her maternal grandmother—her Nani—who went mad with grief after Rasha’s grandfather’s murder. Instead of giving in to hopelessness, Rasha decides to craft a new life for herself. In the process, she develops a strength and resourcefulness that she uses to stand up for the children in her community. Among other adventures, Rasha, a gifted math student, and her friends stop a child marriage, get an abusive teacher fired, and build a boat to get to school during the region’s annual flood. Perhaps most importantly, Rasha solves the mystery of her Nana’s death during the Bangladesh Liberation War, thereby helping her Nani heal. The portrayal of rural Bangladeshi life is empowering and unsentimental, and the critiques of rural corruption, sexism, and other social ills—all of which the reader sees through Rasha’s eyes—are both sharp and devoid of condescension. Rasha’s sense of justice and her growing independence are a pleasure to witness and a refreshing alternative to the portrayal of oppressed South Asian girls and teens found in many Western novels.

A fast-paced adventure starring a strong, likable female protagonist. (translator’s note) (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-343488-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

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