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 the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel,...

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

From the Girl of Fire and Thorns series , Vol. 1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa’s "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202648-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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