A solid thriller built on some well-meant emotional ideas.

HELLWORLD

A teenage girl searches for her long-lost mom and accidentally triggers an apocalypse.

Abby Booth’s mom has been missing for five years. While hosting a popular paranormal-investigative TV series, Mrs. Booth entered a mysterious cave in Arizona and never came back. Now 16, Abby reconnects with Charlie, the son of her mother’s missing co-star, and the pair enters the cave for answers. They find their answers, but they also discover gigantic monsters that quickly escape to wreak havoc. As Abby and Charlie navigate the apocalyptic nightmare, Leveen wrestles with subjects ranging from religious historical theory to grief. Abby is a well-drawn character, action and introspection held in a nice balance. The book’s secondary characters are less captivating. Abby’s father grieves, and Charlie handsomely pouts. Charlie’s girlfriend, Selby, sparks as a combative rationalist but is absent for long stretches due to injury. The book’s structure is curious: alternating chapters between two timelines, one after the monsters are unleashed and one leading up to it. Unfortunately, once the monsters are out and about, it’s hard to be interested in the small-scale drama unfolding prior to their arrival. Regardless, the unfolding of cataclysmic events is presented in captivating fashion, making this an entertaining, if not stellar, read. Characters are not cued racially, implying a white default.

A solid thriller built on some well-meant emotional ideas. (Paranormal adventure. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6633-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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