An unfortunately shallow take on a serious issue.

THE GIRL WHO WASN'T THERE

Housebound due to chronic fatigue, a teen witnesses a terrifying event.

Since contracting myalgic encephalomyelitis eight months ago, 15-year-old Kasia Novak has spent most of her time in her bedroom. The slightest exertion exhausts her, and she’s terrified she’ll never get better. When she witnesses a possible abduction from her window, she wonders if the girl she glimpsed in the opposite window saw it too—but everyone says the girl doesn’t exist. While balancing good days and relapses as she investigates the girl and copes with family tension, Kasia rapidly befriends Navin, the perpetually solicitous grandson of her Indian neighbor. Interspersed with Kasia’s narration, Reema, the mysterious girl, describes her own increasingly desperate circumstances in italicized bursts. Author Joelson, who has struggled with ME herself, sensitively portrays Kasia’s frustration and determination as well as ME’s toll on Kasia’s family. However, this nod to Rear Window ultimately falls flat. Emotions are often stated rather than shown, and underdeveloped secondary characters contribute to an abrupt, lackluster ending. Reema is more a plot device for Kasia’s emotional benefit than a fully realized person, which is particularly unfortunate given her troubling story. Kasia and her family are White Polish immigrants to England. Reema may be South Asian.

An unfortunately shallow take on a serious issue. (author's note) (Suspense. 13-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9885-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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