This lambent, indelible cast outshines any gold they might find.



From the The Shifting Reality Collection series

A teen’s participation on a reality show is an opportunity to search for an island treasure, a legendary fortune others are also hunting, in Brooks’ debut YA thriller.

Eighteen-year-old Riley Ozaki’s involvement in friend Izzy’s misdeed at school is minor. Regardless, students are unhappy Riley received the lighter sentence. Her online-essay response only sparks additional ire, most writing her off as a spoiled rich kid. Redemption may lie in Reality Gold, a Survivor-esque series in which 20 teenagers compete for a million dollars. Riley, however, is interested in the filming location, Black Rock Island, where she can covertly track down a long-rumored treasure of stolen Inca gold (for the imagined accolades, not the wealth). A last-minute twist ups the ante: any contestant who finds the treasure or a substantial clue wins an extra quarter million. Riley has an advantage. She smuggled in a Wi-Fi satellite receiver; she’ll possibly be the only one with internet access. But fellow contestants may have their own hidden advantages, and there’s the reputed island curse and the murder of the last treasure hunter (Riley’s godfather). Indications of another searching party, unrelated to the show, could further impede discovery, while Riley fights simply to avoid getting voted off the island. Rather than the promise of treasure, it’s Brooks’ riveting, multidimensional characters who drive the story. For one, Riley unsurprisingly has trust issues, and the contestants—her rivals—hardly seem reliable, making them much more fun to watch in action. “Cute” Porter alternates between flirtatious and sexist, while Maren’s potential as ally is countered by her unabashed cynicism and indifference. The search for gold is less engaging, though. Riley’s progress in uncovering clues is believable as she forms alliances and gets online-community assistance. Danger on the island is muted but unquestionably present: An accident may be attempted murder. And humor brightens the story, especially discourteous but unforgettable Maren’s personality-defining shirts (“Good morning. I see the assassins have failed,” one reads).

This lambent, indelible cast outshines any gold they might find.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9984997-6-5

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Dunemere Books

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2018

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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