A doozy of a ride, with thrills and chills aplenty.

VERY BAD PEOPLE

A chance encounter prompts a high school junior to wonder whether her mother’s death six years before wasn’t all that accidental.

Hardly has Calliope Bolan arrived as a transfer student to Tipton, the exclusive boarding school in Alyson-on-Hudson that her mom and aunt attended, than a passing glimpse of a stranger who is somehow familiar sets her on a course toward a tangle of shocking family revelations—few if any of which even attentive readers will see coming. Never one to skimp on rising suspense and extreme plot twists, though, Frick also casts her teenage protagonist into a heady series of exploits as a new member of the Haunt and Rail Society, a decades-old secret group on campus that undertakes everything from wonderfully clever “larks” designed to raise awareness of inequities like underpaid kitchen staff to a campaign to expose a popular teacher as a sexual predator that escalates in a frighteningly proactive way. Ultimately Calliope comes to realize that nearly everything she thought she had understood about her classmates, her parents, and even her own motives has been wrong, and that saddles her with some hard choices to make…including one life-changing final twist. Aside from her bisexual aunt’s wife, who is Black and Filipina, Calliope and her family are White; names and other cues identify her fellow students as diverse in race, ethnicity, and nationality.

A doozy of a ride, with thrills and chills aplenty. (campus map) (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4973-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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