UNDERCURRENTS

A great cover, a creepy gardener-cum-madman and a maddeningly clueless, nervous, blond young stepmother (shades of Joan Fontaine) combine a gothic story with a contemporary teen problem novel—but the resulting mystery is far too easily resolved. When her mother dies after a prolonged and devastating illness (chronicled in the first chapter), Nikki’s father marries the young illustrator of a book he is editing. Nikki’s resentment of her new stepmother quickly gives way to grudging protectiveness as Crystal shows herself incapable of self-assertion in the face of Nikki’s bull-headed father. Shortly after the wedding, Crystal inherits a house on the Northern California coast, and over Crystal’s objections, Nikki’s dad insists on moving his family to the beach for the summer. Here, Crystal’s unspoken fear of something dreadful in her past causes alarming nightmares, and Nikki’s impromptu job as secretarial assistant to the gruff owner of a neighboring beach house puts her in proximity to Bruce, the weird resident gardener. As the plot begins to thicken, lightning conveniently burns down the neighboring house—the very house, Crystal finally reveals, where Bruce brutally murdered her entire family when she was a small child. The gardener escapes the fire, however, leaving the reader to wonder about the chilling words Crystal speaks to Nikki in the novel’s last paragraph: “He’ll find you, Nikki,” she says. Though she’s ostensibly talking about Nikki’s budding summer romance with the neighbor’s son, cut short by the fire, the reader can only hope that no sequel is in the works. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-81671-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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A thrilling conclusion to a beautifully crafted, heart-stopping trilogy.

THRIVE

From the Overthrow series , Vol. 3

This is the moment teens Seth, Anaya, and Petra have both been anticipating and dreading ever since aliens called cryptogens began attempting to colonize the Earth: the chance to defend their planet.

In an earlier volume, Seth, Anaya, and Petra began growing physical characteristics that made them realize they were half alien. Seth has wings, Petra has a tail, and Anaya has fur. They also have the power of telepathy, which Anaya uses to converse with Terra, a cryptogen rebel looking for human allies who could help stop the invasion of Earth. Terra plans to use a virus stored in the three teens’ bodies to disarm the flyers, which are the winged aliens that are both masterminding the invasion and enslaving the other species of cryptogens known as swimmers and runners. But Terra and her allies can’t pull any of this off without the help of Anaya, Seth, and Petra. Although the trio is anxious about their abilities, they don’t have much of a choice—the entire human race is depending on them for salvation. Like its predecessors, this trilogy closer is fast-paced and well structured. Despite its post-apocalyptic setting, the story is fundamentally character driven, and it is incredibly satisfying to watch each protagonist overcome their inner battles within the context of the larger human-alien war. Main characters read as White.

A thrilling conclusion to a beautifully crafted, heart-stopping trilogy. (Science fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984894-80-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS

Moose’s world is turned upside down when his family moves to Alcatraz Island where his Dad has taken a job as a prison guard. Super-responsible Moose, big for 12, finds himself caught in the social interactions of this odd cut-off world. He cares for his sister who is older, yet acts much younger due to her autism and he finds his life alternating between frustration and growth. His mother focuses all of her attention on ways to cure the sister; his dad works two jobs and meekly accepts the mother’s choices; his fellow island-dwellers are a funny mix of oddball characters and good friends. Basing her story on the actual experience of those who supported the prison in the ’30s—when Al Capone was an inmate—Choldenko’s pacing is exquisite, balancing the tense family dynamics alongside the often-humorous and riveting school story of peer pressure and friendship. Fascinating setting as a metaphor for Moose’s own imprisonment and enabling some hysterically funny scenes, but a great read no matter where it takes place. (lengthy author’s note with footnotes to sources) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23861-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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