A fun and fast-paced supernatural mystery with secret depths for those who dare explore them. (Paranormal adventure. 8-12)

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A PROPERLY UNHAUNTED PLACE

In a world where hauntings are endemic, Rosa Díaz finds herself in a town suspiciously devoid of ghostly activity in Alexander’s (Nomad, 2016, etc.) latest.

Latina protagonist Rosa is not your usual new-to-town middle school student. Rosa is an apprentice appeasement specialist. Her skills in placating restless souls are going to waste in the small town of Ingot, a place where people go to escape their hauntings, not to appease them. The placid lack of supernatural phenomena ends when an angry spirit gate-crashes opening day of the town Renaissance festival embodied in the carcass of a mountain lion. With the help of a new acquaintance, 11-year-old mixed-race (black/white) Jasper, Rosa sets out to solve the mysteries of where the phantom came from and why no others exist in this quaint town. Alexander does an excellent job of building a contemporary world in which the paranormal is nevertheless ubiquitous and expected. This haunted world begs for further exploration. Though it’s a perfectly enjoyable tale on a purely superficial level, readers who choose to dig deeper will find an engrossing exploration of complicated grief and what damage may be wrought when negative emotions are barricaded away rather than addressed.

A fun and fast-paced supernatural mystery with secret depths for those who dare explore them. (Paranormal adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6915-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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