Horror with heart. (Horror. 12-15)


This spine-tingler plunges into the stuff of nightmares.

“The body was lying in a thicket,” it begins. Fourteen-year-old Maya doesn’t remember why she ran off the path in this dark forest. Two dead bodies lie on the ground, each turning its head with eyes aglow. A shadowy figure bends over a third body. Maya stumbles and screams. Her family finds her and guides her out of this terrifying forest, but when they reach their new home/business—a village hotel called the Rowan Tree—something chilling occurs: A police officer sent to investigate is the same person as the first dead body. Not a twin, not a doppelganger—the same person. Maya just knows. Fright and grisliness escalate. Someone unknown and unseen stalks Maya; a fox has an unnatural power to make her follow it; foxes are turning up disemboweled and decapitated—and not just foxes. The narration stays faithful to Maya’s third-person-limited perspective, so readers don’t know who’s good or bad any earlier than she does. Maya’s warm parents and dedicated older brother can’t shield her or the village from danger, and they become targets too. There’s nothing particularly unique or specific about Maya and her family, which works well here, as if this could happen to anyone. When clarity and answers come, they’re sad, satisfying and less supernatural than they first seemed.

Horror with heart. (Horror. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2397-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.


For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A somewhat entertaining, fast-paced journey that fizzles at the end.


A teenager runs away to Seattle, hoping to locate her missing sister.

Fifteen-year-old Eleanor idolizes her older sister, Sam, despite their being complete opposites: Sam is outgoing and wild, while socially awkward Eleanor is known as Little Miss Perfect, always doing the right and safe thing. After Sam runs away from home, the only communication she has with Eleanor are three postcards sent from Seattle. Eleanor decides to trace her 18-year-old sister’s footsteps, leaving her messages and hopping on a bus to find her. But when Sam doesn’t meet her at the bus depot, Eleanor, who has no real plan, has to learn how to survive on her own while searching the city for her sister. While the close bond between the girls is well depicted through flashbacks, the reveal of an important secret ultimately feels anticlimactic. A major plot point relies too heavily on chance and coincidence to be fully believable. While the color scheme, cityscapes, and background illustrations are atmospheric, the manga-inspired drawing style comes across as dated and flat. The depiction of the fabricated stories Eleanor tells is intriguing, as are the themes of friendship, living in the moment, and maintaining hope; unfortunately, none are thematically strong enough to resonate. The emotional impact of Eleanor’s experiences is diluted by her at times humorous narration. Eleanor and the main cast read as White.

A somewhat entertaining, fast-paced journey that fizzles at the end. (Graphic novel. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-50023-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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