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Sleator devotes his considerable talents to a horror story this time. High-school student Nick and his mother live in near-poverty. Because his mother closely monitors use of their home phone, Nick buys a cell phone to talk more frequently to his girlfriend. But this phone brings weird and threatening calls and proves to have a direct connection to Hell. Nick’s life changes—and not for the better. The pitiful and self-pitying Nick, with his limited experience and lack of worldly knowledge, makes a great pawn for the predatory adults he meets when using the cell phone. The many unpleasant characters and the need for a big-time suspension of disbelief (a direct connection to where?) are countered by a dark, involving and fast-moving plot that surprises, shocks and—eventually—terrifies. Sleator cleverly uses Nick’s weaknesses to paint him into a corner, then pulls off a horrifying (but satisfactory) ending. Gross and yucky episodes, a suspense-filled plot and touches of macabre humor will appeal to both horror fans and reluctant readers. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8109-5479-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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A teenager finds his way out from overwhelming grief in this poignant story from Hawes. Franklin takes his funny, beloved classmate Rosey Mishimi’s death in a car crash so hard that six months later he’s still mired in depression, walled off from his mother, therapist, and friends, filling his journal with present-tense memories. Then Rosey reappears, almost her old bubbly self but insubstantial, invisible to everyone else—except, perhaps, her dying Japanese grandmother. Is she a ghost, or just a figment? While he doesn’t entirely rule out the latter, Franklin is eager to have Rosey back on any terms, despite the understandable dismay of those around him. In the end, it doesn’t matter; Rosey fades away, but slowly enough to give Franklin a chance to say goodbye, to understand that she will always be with him, and to accept the fact that he still has a life to live. Hawes keeps Rosey’s exact nature ambiguous without being coy; that, along with the distinct characters and a caring supporting cast, make this a thoughtful variation on the often-explored theme of coping with loss. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8027-8685-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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Murder, magic, salacious secrets, and sparkling wit immediately pull the reader into this engrossing medieval whodunit from Vande Velde (Ghost of a Hanged Man, 1998, etc.). Selwyn, 17, is condemned to death after his rival, Farold, is murdered in his sleep. Overwhelming circumstantial evidence convinces villagers of Selwyn’s guilt, so he is thrown into the burial cave to rot with the corpse. Although his fate seems grim, Selwyn is soon rescued by a hard-bargaining witch, Elswyth. She resurrects Farold’s spirit, frees them both from the cave, disguises them, and allows them one week to find the real murderer in exchange for years and years of Selwyn’s servitude. Hilarious mishaps ensue, as the bickering amateurs search out answers, exposing the villagers’ true colors along the way. The sympathetic hero, original humor, sharp dialogue, and surprising plot twists make this read universally appealing and difficult to put down. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201899-9

Page Count: 193

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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