An eerie thriller emphasizing the power of inner strength.

SMALL TOWN MONSTERS

When sinister influences threaten to take over, two teens stand in the way of evil destruction.

Vera Martinez is a regular, introverted high school junior. She has a part-time job, struggles to fit in, and dreams of escaping her small town after graduation. Not-so-typical, however, is the fact that her parents fight demons on behalf of the Catholic Church and keep a catalog of possessed relics in their off-limits basement. Vera’s family has a reputation for being creepy, and being the daughter of demon hunters hasn’t done much for her social standing. When popular athlete Maxwell Oliver appeals for her help in ridding his mom of a strange new affliction, Vera isn’t sure she shares her parents’ supernatural gifts and doubts that she can be of much help. The pair begin to notice that their small town has had much more than its fair share of tragedy in the years since a gas explosion killed 18 community members. Is this horrible accident connected to the subsequent rash of suicides and casualties? Vera and Max must confront the evil forces closing in on their community while navigating their own feelings of grief and self-doubt. Themes of religious faith, personal identity, and perseverance are woven throughout. The strong writing, ghoulish details, and brisk plot give this work reader appeal. Vera is Irish and Puerto Rican, and Max has Jamaican, Dominican, and European ancestry.

An eerie thriller emphasizing the power of inner strength. (author’s note, sources) (Paranormal. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-42751-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Underlined

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

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THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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