This mystery shines as a foray into modern investigative journalism.

SCREAM SITE

An aspiring journalist investigates a local horror website.

Sabrina Sebastian is a smart, ambitious high school freshman, determined to get a summer newspaper internship, but her cafeteria exposés and charity fluff pieces for the school paper are too stodgy. Her best friend, the spirited Evelyn, suggests that she write about the gossip surrounding Scream Site, a trendy website for amateur horror videos. Sabrina hates scary movies but is intrigued by rumors that girls have disappeared after sharing videos. Could there be a grain of truth to the terrifying footage of girls screaming for help while evading nefarious pursuers? “This is real. This is real!” whispers one girl into the camera. Sabrina turns up suspicious ties between the website and missing local girls, but her detective uncle dismisses her concerns as unfounded even as Sabrina starts to receive creepy threats. Ireland (Dread Nation, 2018, etc.) maintains a steady pace of reveals as suspicion is cast on Evelyn’s crush, an English teacher, and possibly even Sabrina’s own uncle. Horror fans may be disappointed that homage is paid to the genre without any real terror, but they will appreciate the jump scares, the untimely blackouts, and the frustration when Sabrina’s older sister, Faith, innocently decides that she wants to try to post some horror videos, too. Sabrina and her sister are dark-skinned, and Evelyn is Chinese-American.

This mystery shines as a foray into modern investigative journalism. (Mystery. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63079-102-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A somewhat entertaining, fast-paced journey that fizzles at the end.

THE RUNAWAY'S DIARY

A teenager runs away to Seattle, hoping to locate her missing sister.

Fifteen-year-old Eleanor idolizes her older sister, Sam, despite their being complete opposites: Sam is outgoing and wild, while socially awkward Eleanor is known as Little Miss Perfect, always doing the right and safe thing. After Sam runs away from home, the only communication she has with Eleanor are three postcards sent from Seattle. Eleanor decides to trace her 18-year-old sister’s footsteps, leaving her messages and hopping on a bus to find her. But when Sam doesn’t meet her at the bus depot, Eleanor, who has no real plan, has to learn how to survive on her own while searching the city for her sister. While the close bond between the girls is well depicted through flashbacks, the reveal of an important secret ultimately feels anticlimactic. A major plot point relies too heavily on chance and coincidence to be fully believable. While the color scheme, cityscapes, and background illustrations are atmospheric, the manga-inspired drawing style comes across as dated and flat. The depiction of the fabricated stories Eleanor tells is intriguing, as are the themes of friendship, living in the moment, and maintaining hope; unfortunately, none are thematically strong enough to resonate. The emotional impact of Eleanor’s experiences is diluted by her at times humorous narration. Eleanor and the main cast read as White.

A somewhat entertaining, fast-paced journey that fizzles at the end. (Graphic novel. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-50023-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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