A pitch-perfect contemporary gothic.

THE COMPANION

It’s been three months since 16-year-old Margot Radegan survived the car wreck that killed her parents and two sisters.

John Sutton, an old law school friend of Margot’s father who owes him a debt of gratitude, offers to take her in and away from the group home where she’s been staying. When she catches a glimpse of Copeland Hall, the Suttons’ stately and enormous country home near Chicago, she’s in awe. However, John and Laura Sutton’s support hinges on being a companion to their 17-year-old daughter, Agatha, who has a mysterious illness that has robbed her of speech and rendered her barely responsive to her surroundings. There’s no cellphone signal or access to Wi-Fi, but Margot’s prospects are few, and eventually she develops a rapport with Laura and finds she enjoys helping with Agatha. There’s even a spark of romance with John and Laura’s 16-year-old son, Barrett. However, a series of strange events hint at a dark legacy lingering in the vast halls of Laura’s ancestral home, and the Suttons might not be quite what they seem. Margot’s narration feels intimate, especially when she reflects on her potent grief, and Agatha is never used as a prop: She and Margot develop a silent communication that transcends speech. The palpable and steadily building sense of dread throughout is enhanced by a whisper of the supernatural. All characters seem to be white.

A pitch-perfect contemporary gothic. (Suspense. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54591-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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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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