THE TURNING

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is the inspiration for this epistolary novel by Francine Prose.

High school senior Jack has been hired as a professional playmate for two orphaned children who live on their wealthy family’s remote island for the summer. But the isolated place has no Internet or phone service, so Jack must write old-fashioned letters to communicate. Very quickly the strangely polite siblings and their vast spooky mansion begin freaking Jack out, and his letters to his girlfriend grow more and more paranoid. He writes about seeing the ghosts of a former teacher and the previous groundskeeper, who both died under mysterious circumstances, and he becomes obsessed with their stories. Are they real? Or is Jack losing his mind? If readers can suspend disbelief that a teenage boy would recount lengthy, word-for-word conversations in letters, then they might be susceptible to the novel’s moderately creepy tone. But the bad things are telegraphed so early and often and Jack’s voice is so nondescript, that the fear never really takes root. Whether or not the ghosts are real is left up to readers, but due to the lackluster prose and obvious foreshadowing, the question is ultimately not that frightening. Teens looking for a more elegantly executed retelling should turn to Tighter by Adele Griffin (2011).

Not enough scare there. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199966-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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