Otherwise, a smooth and not-too-scary page-turner, with room in its conclusion for a third installment.

FROM BAD TO CURSED

A group of social-climbing high-school girls makes a deal with a demon in this sassy, easily digestible horror story.

After saving her little sister Kasey from demonic possession in Bad Girls Don't Die (2009), pink-haired, confident Alexis hopes her time battling fiends is over. When Kasey starts high school, however, she falls in with the Sunshine Club, a group of girls who turn out to be involved with the demon Aralt, and Alexis, hoping to protect her sister, joins the club herself. Although it takes some time for Alexis to realize she has become possessed, her condition is no secret from readers. The author effectively blends Alexis' take-charge, nonconformist personality with Aralt's aggressively sunny, obsessively image-conscious influence. Life becomes easier with Aralt's help: Alexis heals quickly from injuries, manipulates her suspicious boyfriend and attracts the attention of well-placed adults, some of them also Aralt's devotees. The tension comes from watching Alexis' demon-fighting resolve weaken and uncovering clues about the true cost of Aralt's seeming benevolence. A few nasty fat jokes undercut the novel's ostensible stance against looks-related bullying, and using a girl who walks with a cane to represent the most desperate of losers is tasteless and unnecessary.

Otherwise, a smooth and not-too-scary page-turner, with room in its conclusion for a third installment. (Supernatural thriller. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3471-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations.

CARAVAL

From the Caraval series , Vol. 1

Magic, mystery, and love intertwine and invite in this newest take on the “enchanted circus” trope.

Sisters raised by their abusive father, a governor of a colonial backwater in a world vaguely reminiscent of the late 18th century, Scarlett and Donatella each long for something more. Scarlett, olive-skinned, dark of hair and attitude, longs for Caraval, the fabled, magical circus helmed by the possibly evil Master Legend Santos, while blonde, sunny Tella finds comfort in drink and the embraces of various men. A slightly awkward start, with inconsistencies of attitude and setting, rapidly smooths out when they, along with handsome “golden-brown” sailor Julian, flee to Caraval on the eve of Scarlett’s arranged marriage. Tella disappears, and Scarlett must navigate a nighttime world of magic to find her. Caraval delights the senses: beautiful and scary, described in luscious prose, this is a show readers will wish they could enter. Dresses can be purchased for secrets or days of life; clocks can become doors; bridges move: this is an inventive and original circus, laced with an edge of horror. A double love story, one sensual romance and the other sisterly loyalty, anchors the plot, but the real star here is Caraval and its secrets.

Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09525-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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