Tag Archives: thriller

Following by Jeffry W. Johnston

Following by Jeffry W. Johnston. February 5, 2019. Sourcebooks Fire, 256 p. ISBN: 9781492664611.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Rear Window meets Serial in this riveting new thriller from Edgar Award-nominated author that follows Alden as he tries to solve a crime only he believes was committed.

Alden likes to follow people. He’s not trying to be a creep, he just wants to be an investigator someday, and it’s good practice.

But spying on people comes with risks, like when Alden sees popular Greg Matthes seemingly murder his girlfriend, Amy, one night in the bad part of town.

But the facts aren’t adding up, especially because Amy may be alive. Now Alden has to figure what he could have seen… and what secrets Greg is hiding.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. High-school junior Alden has always fancied himself an amateur detective: “It’s important work. You never know about people; what they show on the outside is often not what’s on the inside. You’ve gotta watch for those brief moments when the hidden part slips out.” After Alden’s parents are killed during a mass shooting, investigating suspicious leads is all he can think about. Curiosity gets him in hot water when he follows popular senior athlete Greg to a secluded area behind the high school and witnesses what he thinks is Greg murdering his girlfriend, Amy. When Amy turns up at school unmistakably not murdered, Alden has to reshape his theories. Guided by his best friend (and daughter of the local police chief) Charlie, Alden walks a fine line between sticking to his convictions and making a false police report. Johnston’s (The Truth​, 2016) latest is a slow-burn thriller that veers in surprising directions, with a final twist no one will see coming. Teasing chapter endings and engaging characters will propel readers forward.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
Practicing his investigative techniques, aspiring detective Alden follows golden boy Greg to an abandoned ball park at the edge of town where he believes he witnesses a murder. In an update to the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” Alden is the guy spotting crime and anonymously informing the police in order to assuage the guilt he feels around the death of his parents during a mass shooting at a fair. He is obsessed with the need to prevent the mayhem he feels exists around him. But is this crime real? Greg, a senior and popular athlete at their high school, is dating pretty, red-haired Amy—and now Alden thinks he has murdered her. Alden’s best friend, Charlie, is the daughter of the chief of police and for a time becomes involved in trying to prove or disprove the crime that Alden believes was committed. A junior, Alden lives with an uncle who is trying to be a parent but lacks experience; this side plot adds to the overall picture of Alden’s isolation. There are minimal physical descriptions beyond hair color, and main characters follow a white default. Little in the characterization or writing make this stand out, but Alden’s motivation rings true, and his vulnerability is appealing. A twisty mystery. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

I write young adult mysteries and thrillers. My first two novels, FRAGMENTS and THE TRUTH, were both Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selections by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). FRAGMENTS was also a 2008 Edgar nominee by the Mystery Writers of America for Best Young Adult Mystery and THE TRUTH was a 2017 In the Margins Top 10 Book Award winner. My new teen thriller, FOLLOWING, is out in 2019. Besides also publishing numerous short stories and articles covering various genres and subjects, I have been a film and theatre reviewer.

His website is jeffrywjohnston.com.

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The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith

The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith. February 19, 2019. Clarion Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781328841605.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he’s too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens—dark and foreboding.

Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he’s been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father’s scorn?

Even readers who don’t believe in UFOs will relate to the universal kid feeling of not being taken seriously by adults that deepens this deliciously scary tale.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Verbal abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 5-7. Smith (Hoodoo, 2015) continues to be one of the most distinct and impressive voices in middle-grade speculative fiction right now. Twelve-year-old Simon’s longtime obsession with aliens comes to a head when his parents take him camping over the summer. After a terrifying encounter with an owl leaves him with memory loss and a small, mysterious wound on his stomach, Simon worries that he’s been abducted and implanted with an alien tracking device. Peppered with moments of reflection and insight, Simon’s piercing narration strikes a delightfully conspiratorial tone as he confides in, and at times speaks directly to, the reader. Smith plants a seed of dread and suspense early on that grows and grows, right up until the very last page. The unexpected ending simultaneously wraps up the story line, leaves the reader satisfied, and furthers the book’s propensity to blur genre lines. This is an unassuming, stand-alone story that sneaks up when least expected, and it will be hard to forget.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2018)
A young boy gets more than he bargained for while researching conspiracy theories about the government and UFOs in Smith’s latest. Twelve-year-old, biracial Simon is a quirky kid. He lives on an Air Force base, he reads and writes high fantasy stories, and he believes in aliens. Not just any aliens, but “Grays”—the large-headed, spindly-fingered visitors of Roswell fame. Most of the information that Simon can find is from supposed coverups of the Grays’ frighteningly hostile abductions of humans—theories that sound perfectly rational until he says them out loud, especially to his disapproving parents. But theory bleeds into reality when Simon encounters a bright light and a large owl in the woods, leaving him with an odd scar and a jumble of fragmented memories. Simon’s parents worry for his mental health as Simon himself spirals in his search for explanations, certain that the Grays are trying to communicate and that their message is not so friendly. A theme of liminality runs through the narrative as Simon’s interests, including his own writing, explore the limits of black-or-white human concepts and the gray areas where those binaries break down—gray like invading aliens; both black and white like Simon. A stilted conclusion and unnecessary epilogue propped up by platitudes about special children who can save humanity mar an otherwise terrific alien thrill. A middle-grade X-Files primer, a great ride until it stumbles at the finish line. (Science fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

“I grew up on Air Force bases and have lived in Japan, Maine, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, Delaware, Washington, DC, Illinois and a bunch of other places I don’t remember. After reading Ray Bradbury’s R is for Rocket and Eleanor Cameron’s Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet I fell in love with books.

I haven’t stopped reading since.”

His website is www.strangeblackflowers.com

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Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig. January 29, 2019. Fiewel & Friends, 448 p. ISBN: 9781250155825.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them―for good?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Homophobia, Drug abuse

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 10-12. Margo Manning: socialite, heiress . . . art thief? By day, she avoids the paparazzi, who have dubbed her Mad Margo. At night, she dons a platinum wig and commits heists with a group of drag queens. Margo, a consummate planner, eliminates any variables that may get them caught. Still, it’s a dangerous game they’re playing, and while Margo may not need the money, her friends do: Leif strains to pay the pricey tuition at his dance academy so he doesn’t have to return home to his deeply religious parents; mechanic Davon, essentially orphaned, makes ends meet by working at a drag club with his found family; and Margo’s best friend, Axel, and his younger brother, Joaquin, struggle to support their sick mother after their father is arrested for embezzlement. When the heist of a lifetime comes their way, the crew find themselves with difficult choices to make. At the same time, Margo is surrounded by upheaval in her father’s company, and she’ll need all her wiliness to navigate her way out. Roehrig (Last Seen Leaving​, 2016) takes a sharp dive out of thriller territory with this high-stakes adventure. Balancing Oceans 11–level heists, corporate espionage, and gender and sexual identity politics isn’t easy, but Roehrig manages it with aplomb, skillfully threading in Hamlet references to boot. Clever, thrilling, and a wildly good time.

Publishers Weekly Annex (February 25, 2019)
In this action-packed thriller, heiress and party girl “Mad Margo” Manning seems to have it all-clothes, parties, fast cars, and loyal friends. What she doesn’t have is the attention of her father, Harland, who spends time between running his businesses and dealing with a mysterious ailment. Margo attempts to rectify this by organizing heists to steal goods for hire with a team of her best friends, all in drag (code names include Liesl Von Tramp and Dior Galore). She knows how irate Harland would be if she ever got caught. When Harland suddenly dies from mysterious ailments, Margo takes it upon herself to figure out what happened. Using her skills as an art and jewel thief, as well as the expensive, state-of-the-art equipment that only an heiress can afford, Margo and her crew follow the evidence to catch a killer. With a knack for infusing tongue-in-cheek humor into darker subject matters, Roehrig (White Rabbit) effectively creates a likable thief whose actions seem justifiable. Margo’s crew is equally likable, each contending with their own issues, making them relatable despite their less-than-legal hobby. With a nod to Hamlet, Roehrig’s five-act structure keeps the dramatic tension high with cinematic break-in sequences that render this tale ripe for adaptation. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.

His website is calebroehrig.com

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr. February 12, 2019. Philomel Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780399547041.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Ella Black has always had dark inclinations. She’s successfully hidden her evil alter ego from her family and friends, but Bella is always there, ready to take control and force Ella to do bad things. When Ella’s parents drag her out of school one afternoon and fly across the globe to Rio de Janeiro with no believable explanation, Bella longs to break free–and so does Ella. Because for all that her parents claim to be doing what’s best for her, Ella knows there is something going on that they’re not divulging, and she is determined to find out what.

Once in Rio, Ella learns a shocking truth about her family that gives way to a mission through the streets and beaches of Brazil in search of her authentic self. But the truth has many layers, and as Ella uncovers more and more about her own history, she struggles to come to terms with just where it is that she came from.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Sexual assault, Strong language,

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
Ella Black is a 17-year-old English girl with a dark side she hides from everyone. Lately Ella finds it harder and harder to hide Bella—Bad Ella—or the Monster, as she dubs her alter ego. Her parents show up one day at school saying that they all have to go away at once, to Rio de Janeiro, with no explanation. Ella fears that they have found out her secret or that she is terminally ill. But the truth, which she finds out after doing some snooping, is something she had never imagined. Heartbroken and tormented by the secret she discovers, Ella runs away from her parents and ends up in the favelas of Brazil, where she confronts her previous assumptions about the residents. Questioning all she thought she knew about her life, her family, and herself, she learns how to survive while living on the streets. Ella changes her appearance—purple hair makes her noticeable—but how long can she keep herself hidden from those determined to find her? Barr (The One Memory of Flora Banks, 2017, etc.) employs devices such as repetition and sentences broken down into a single word per line that quickly become stale, and the novel drags on for too long. A predictable storyline with lackluster tension, insufficient character growth, and an insta-love romance make this story fall short of being an engaging psychological thriller. An interesting premise with an anticlimactic and disappointing ending. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Emily Barr worked as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, writing a column in the Guardian about it as she went, and it was there that she had an idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became Backpack, which won the WH Smith New Talent Award. She has since written eleven more adult novels published in the UK and around the world, and a novella, Blackout, for the Quick Reads series. Her twelfth novel, The Sleeper, is a psychological thriller set on the London to Cornwall sleeper train.

In 2013 she went to Svalbard with the idea of setting a thriller in the Arctic. The book that came out of it was The One Memory of Flora Banks, a thriller for young _adults

Her website is www.emilybarr.com.

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The Plotters by Un-su Kim

The Plotters by Un-su Kim. January 29, 2019. Doubleday Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780385544382.  Int Lvl: Ad; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance.

Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind–a plotter–working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city’s most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want?
Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters “The Library,” Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women–a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian–Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot.
Crackling with action and filled with unforgettable characters, The Plotters is a deeply entertaining thriller that soars with the soul, wit, and lyricism of real literary craft.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: 

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Reseng, 32, has been a professional assassin for 15 years, minus a short factory-worker stint at 22, while playing house with the love of his life. That he’s survived this long—never mind his risky career, he’s also a two-pack-a-day smoker with a beer-for-breakfast diet—is remarkable. Pulled from a garbage can as an infant, nunnery-raised until he turned four, Reseng then grew up fostered by a killer called Old Racoon, living in his “gloomy, labyrinthine library” named the Doghouse. Discovering literacy at nine (he never went to school), Reseng now avoids boredom and loneliness by reading books, from Sophocles to Calvino, in between his murderous assignments by “the plotters”—the elite, beyond-the-law puppet masters who control their putative democracy in post-military-dictatorship style. Reseng’s life continues smoothly enough until he finds a bomb in his toilet. Fortunately, he was Beer Week-upchucking; other-end purging would have been fatally explosive. His search for the bombmaker leads him to two orphaned sisters and a cross-eyed librarian from his past and onward to an ultimate plot that might save the world—or might not. The winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
An assassin in Seoul’s underworld is embroiled in a rivalry between the mysterious men who literally call the shots. Reseng, the hero of the first novel by Kim to appear in English, is a coldblooded killer whose lone-wolf persona seems stitched out of equal parts Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch. An orphan, he was raised for most of his life by Old Raccoon, a shady fixer who lives in a massive but neglected library while plotting murders. Reseng has been the don’t-ask-questions type until he learns that a colleague didn’t follow through on killing a prostitute like he was supposed to. And when that colleague is found dead, he’s moved to start investigating the “plotters” who make his world move. The answer to Reseng’s inquiries aren’t particularly engaging or surprising: Corporations and government leaders in South Korea plan killings to preserve power, amassing a small army of “washed-up assassins, gangsters, retired servicemen and former homicide detectives, tired of working for peanuts.” And of course, Reseng is a target himself, via a bomb installed in his toilet. The novel is somewhat redeemed from its stock plotting in its more visceral moments: There’s a lively gallows humor to scenes where Reseng pays regular visits to the man who cremates gang-war victims, and he casually slices off one man’s fingers as coolly as you might make a salad. Kim makes a few gestures toward literary gravitas, like a flashback to a woman in Reseng’s more innocent past and some riffing about the source of human violence. (“A handful of villains isn’t enough to affect the world. The world is like this because we’re too meek.” ) But between the convoluted plotting and myriad stylistic intentions, Kim hasn’t identified a clear target to hit. An energetic mashup of thriller tropes that doesn’t quite jell.

About the Author

Un-su Kim was born in 1972 in Busan and is the author of several highly praised novels. He has won the Munhakdongne Novel Prize, Korea’s most prestigious literary prize, and was nominated for the 2016 Grand Prix de la Littéraire Policière. He lives in Jinhae-gu, South Korea.

 

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Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus. January 8, 2019. Delacorte Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9781524714734.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone has declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking

 

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Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. McManus follows up her smash hit debut, One of Us Is Lying​ (2017), with another twisted mystery centered around wily teens. Echo Ridge is an idyllic small town in all ways but one: five years ago, homecoming queen Lacy Kildare was strangled, her body left in the presciently named Murderland theme park. The park changed its name, but the town never moved on—Lacy’s body may have been the first one to turn up, but she wasn’t the first girl to go missing. Ellery and her twin brother, Ezra, have just moved to Echo Ridge to live with their grandmother while their mom, whose own twin vanished in high school, undergoes a stint in rehab. When another girl goes missing, true-crime obsessive Ellery is determined to find the truth. But Echo Ridge is dangerous, and she and her family may be more involved than she knows. This is as much a social commentary as it is a layered mystery, and a somewhat abrupt finale won’t keep readers from speeding their way to the end.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2018)
History threatens to repeat itself in a small town known for disappearing teen girls. When their mother is suddenly sent to rehab, twins Ellery and Ezra Corcoran are uprooted from California to live with their grandmother in Vermont. True-crime–obsessed Ellery knows the town is infamous for girls going missing. Her own aunt, her mother’s twin, disappeared 23 years ago, never to be found. Just five years ago, Lacey Kilduff was found murdered in nearby Murderland, a Halloween theme park. All eyes are on the twins as the new kids in town, and Ellery’s pulled between the popular girls and Malcolm Kelly, the younger brother of Declan, Lacey’s boyfriend and the person everyone suspects murdered her. Disturbing acts of vandalism pop up, threatening a sequel to events at Murderland. When Ellery’s nominated for homecoming queen, the threats begin to target her and the other princesses, and no matter what he does, Malcolm keeps ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time, making for an easy scapegoat. Alternating between Ellery’s and Malcolm’s perspectives, the mystery unfurls at a deliciously escalating pace, filled with believable red herrings and shocking twists. Readers will furiously turn pages until the satisfying end. Though the students are predominantly white, Ellery and Ezra are biracial (white and Latinx), and Ezra is gay. Malcolm is white, and his best friend is a bisexual Korean-American girl. Masterfully paced with well-earned thrills and spooky atmosphere worth sinking into. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. When she isn’t working or writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, McManus loves to travel with her son. One of Us Is Lying is her debut novel.

Her website is www.karenmcmanus.com.

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What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards

What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards. December 4, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 369 p. ISBN: 9781492657187.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

Mallory didn’t want to leave home, but it wasn’t safe to stay. So she sleeps at her best friend’s house and spends the rest of her time at the library, doing her online schoolwork and figuring out what comes next. Because she’s not going live in fear like her mother.

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service for a stunt he pulled, but he likes the work. And it’s the perfect escape from his parents’ pressure to excel at school, at ice hockey, at everything. Especially after he meets Mallory.

Then there is a tragic death at the library. Suddenly, what was once a sanctuary turns sinister. Ghostly footprints, strange scratching sounds, scrawled messages on bulletin boards and walls… Mallory and Spencer don’t know who or what is responsible, but one thing is for sure:

They are not as alone―or as safe―as they thought.

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Spencer’s privileged family expects him to go to college and live a life of wealth and prominence. Mallory comes from a lower-income home, where her stepfather is controlling and manipulative. Scared about the future for different reasons, the two discover their own escapes: Spencer climbs mountains (or anything else he can find), while Mallory evades her stepfather by running away. Mallory and Spencer meet under stressful circumstances, but it’s not long before they start to help each other through their problems and lead their own lives. Richards’ latest is particularly intriguing; like her previous novel, One Was Lost (2016), it also features a chilling, small-town mystery. Though both teens face difficult dilemmas, in the present and looking forward, it is likely Mallory who readers will feel for most as she tries to escape an abusive home environment. This page-turning story of teens helping each other through dilemmas will attract and inspire readers.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2018)
Two teens with different life circumstances are drawn together in this thriller featuring a mystery set in their Ohio town’s public library. When privileged, funny, and kind Spencer gets busted for breaking a library window while climbing the outside of the building, he winds up doing community service there to make amends. It doesn’t take him long to notice smart, self-possessed Mallory, who spends long hours in the library since leaving home due to the unsettling behavior of her domineering stepfather. In short chapters that alternate between the two in first-person narration, their story unfolds, blending with an eerie subplot about strange and frightening occurrences that happen largely after hours within the library. Though there’s never much doubt that they will become romantically involved, care is taken to develop both characters, including their places within their families—Spencer, adopted by loving and extremely wealthy parents, acutely feels the weight of their expectations, while Mallory’s heart-rending experience of being homeless and worrying about her mom, who’s pregnant, is poignantly told. Spencer is described as having bronze skin, which differs from his adoptive family’s pale blondness. Mallory is implied white. There is some ethnic diversity among secondary characters, including Mallory’s best friend, Lana, whose Venezuelan family is struggling following her dad’s and brother’s deportations. A taut, compelling mystery and a compassionate realistic fiction novel all in one. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Natalie D. Richards won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn’t dare do the dishes.) She later misplaced her writing dreams in a maze of cubicles and general office drudgery. Natalie never forgot about Barbara or those dishes, and eventually she found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. When she’s not writing or shopping her manuscripts, you can probably find her wading through the towers of dog-eared paperbacks that have taken over her bedroom.

Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband and their three children, who inspire her every day to stick with her dreams.  Her website is www.nataliedrichards.com.

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Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels

Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels. December 10, 2018. Disney-Hyperion, 384 p. ISBN: 9781368014267.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA:.

Twin brothers Ty and Cory Bic are on the run. When they encounter a dying deer in the middle of a remote mountain road with fresh tire tracks swerving down into a ravine, they know they have to help. But when they reach the wrecked car the vehicle appears empty, with signs that the driver escaped.

Until they hear a sound coming from the trunk.

Ty and Cory are escaping demons of their own. But what they discover in the trunk puts them in the crosshairs of something darker and more sinister than their wildest nightmares.

Told through a gripping, lightning-fast narrative that alternates between present and past, this unputdownable survival thriller unravels the tangled circumstances that led Ty and Cory to the deer in the road and set them on a perilous course through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage smoking, Violence, Weight shaming, Domestic abuse, Sexual abuse, Human trafficking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. In a stolen Volvo on a lonely stretch of treacherous road, twin brothers Ty and Cory pull over to avoid hitting a dying deer. The deer leads them to a car wrecked in the canyon below, the driver gone—but when they find a girl, tied and injured in the trunk, they’re thrown into a strained and dangerous situation. But 16 months ago, circumstances set Ty and Cory onto a dire path of their own. Since then, they’ve been paying for their father’s crimes, while trying to carve out a future for themselves, and in the woods now, everything is more connected than it seems, and it’s all coming to a head. Chapters alternate between the third-person past narration and the present, told in Cory’s tense, first-person voice. The busy story lines of the past-tense chapters contrast sharply with the urgent, single-minded present-day scenes, where survival is the goal, but the alternation keeps things moving, and sweet, good-natured Cory is easy to root for. A suspenseful thriller for fans of wilderness survival stories.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
Troubled twin brothers go from the frying pan into the fire when they encounter a girl who needs their help in the cold wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Sixteen-year-old twins Ty and Cory Bic’s father, Benny, was an unstable grifter and a cruel and abusive father, especially hard on overweight, thoughtful Cory. Following Benny’s death in a fire, the boys, who are presumably white, are shuttled to Luster, Oregon, where they find stability with their new foster parents, the Motts, whose powerful patriarch is on the cusp of a Senate run. After stumbling on a damaging secret about Mr. Mott, the boys take off, discovering a wrecked car in the woods with a zip-tied teen girl in the trunk. The driver is nowhere to be found. Cory is left to tend to the seemingly mute girl after being separated from Ty. As her condition worsens and the wolves, human and otherwise, circle the door of their hideout, Cory realizes that the considerable sins of their father are coming back to haunt them. Told in flashbacks and Cory’s tense, present-day narration, Wallenfels’ (Bad Call, 2017, etc.) tightly plotted roller coaster ride features very bad guys doing very bad things and fraught family drama. Aspiring chef and avid gamer Cory is worth rooting for, and his complex relationship with the volatile Ty, plus themes like physical abuse and abuse of power, adds depth. A hair-raising, explosive thriller. (Thriller. 14-18)

About the Author

Stephen Wallenfels is an avid outdoorsman from Richland, Washington. He was a freelance writer in the health and fitness field for many years, and now works as the IT and creative director at a large fitness company. Stephen’s first novel, POD, has been published in six languages.

His website is stephenwallenfels.com

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My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. November 20, 2018. Doubleday Books, 226 p. ISBN: 9780385544238.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.
Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Domestic abuses

 

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Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Ayoola is beautiful, charismatic, and popular, everything her long-suffering older sister, Korede, is not. Ayoola is also a killer, and Korede is growing used to literally cleaning up her messes when Ayoola ends her relationships with their father’s ceremonial knife. Korede’s life has few pleasures, but she looks forward to her nursing shifts at the hospital where she can be near the handsome Dr. Tade Otumu. Then Tade meets Ayoola and falls under her spell. Braithwaite’s debut is written in quick, economical chapters that brilliantly render the setting: the crowded streets of Lagos, St. Peter’s hospital, the languid heat on Korede and Ayoola’s family estate. This is a darkly, darkly funny novel—​for example, Ayoola invites Tade over to play Cluedo just weeks after the sisters were bleaching bathroom tiles and dumping a body in the river. It strips away the romanticism of the complicated sisterly relationship but perfectly illustrates its complicated contradictions: Korede cannot stand Ayoola, but she would do anything for her.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
From the hospital rooms and living spaces of Lagos, Nigeria, comes a dryly funny and wickedly crafty exercise in psychological suspense. Introverted, sensitive Korede is a nurse, a very good one from what we see of her at work. She feels such a connection with her patients that she finds herself taking a coma victim named Muhtar into her confidence. There’s one secret in particular that pours out of Korede like scalding liquid: Her flamboyantly beautiful younger sister, Ayoola, has this habit of killing the men she dates. (Three, so far.) She hasn’t been caught yet because Korede cleans up after her. They both disposed of the most recent victim, a poet named Femi, so efficiently that nobody in his family or with the police know his whereabouts. So that, as Korede is concerned, is that; except there’s this single good-looking doctor named Tade at the hospital where she works who has his eye on Ayoola—even though Korede has tried her best to win Tade’s attention. Now she tries to warn Tade that her sister’s relationships “tend to end, badly.” His response: “Oh…guys can be jerks.” (Yes, they certainly can.) As Tade and Ayoola begin their romance, Korede’s the one who has to answer questions about Femi’s disappearance, and, seemingly out of nowhere, Ayoola acquires yet another suitor named Gboyega, prompting both Korede and the reader to wonder which of these unwary gentlemen Ayoola will favor and what will happen to him. Generations of gothic mystery aficionados have attended these uneasy and insidious events before. But besides the setting, what makes Braithwaite’s first novel stand out from others in this genre is the unobtrusively sly approach she takes to the conventions of “black widow” storytelling and the appealing deadpan voice of the jittery yet world-weary Korede. Along the way, there are scattered glimpses of life in Lagos, most acidly when Korede deals with the routine corruption involved in a traffic stop. Even your most extravagant speculations about what’s really going on with these wildly contrasting yet oddly simpatico siblings will be trumped in this skillful, sardonic debut.

About the Author

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo, a Nigerian publishing house, and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top-ten spoken-word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam, and in 2016 she was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Her website is writeratworkng.com

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7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. September 18, 2018. Sourcebooks Landmark, 438 p. ISBN: 9781492657965.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The Rules of Blackheath

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Violence

 

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Booklist starred (May 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 17))
The Hardcastle family has decided to throw a party at Blackheath House as a memorial to their son, who was killed there years before. At 11 p.m., during the party, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. Aiden Bishop is trapped inside a time loop with this murder mystery at its center. Each morning he awakens in another guest’s body and relives that same day until Evelyn’s death. If he does not find the killer by 11 p.m., Evelyn will die, and the cycle will begin again. However, there is a catch: he’s racing against time—he has eight days, eight do-overs, to solve the mystery. If he fails, he will be killed himself. This novel is so ingenious and original that it’s difficult to believe it’s Turton’s debut. The writing is completely immersive. The reader slips into the pages right beside Bishop, following closely in the adrenaline-packed hunt for the killer. Evelyn’s time line could easily be confusing, but Turton masterfully creates a natural flow while jumping through different characters on different days. There are certainly echoes of Agatha Christie here, but it’s Christie ramped up several notches, thanks to the malevolent twist on the Groundhog Day theme. Readers may be scratching their heads in delicious befuddlement as they work their way through this novel, but one thing will be absolutely clear: Stuart Turton is an author to remember.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
In this dizzying literary puzzle, the hapless protagonist is doomed to relive the same day over and over unless he can solve a murder at a masquerade ball. The narrator, Aiden Bishop, wakes up in a forest outside Blackheath House, “a sprawling Georgian manor house,” not knowing who or where he is—or why he’s screaming the name Anna. A man in a beaked plague-doctor mask brings him up to speed: For eight days, Aiden will wake up in the body of a different witness to the shooting of young beauty Evelyn Hardcastle. If at the end of that extended week, during which Aiden will remember all that occurs, he fails to identify the killer and break the bizarre murder cycle, he will have his memory wiped and be forced to start from the beginning. “It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a hole with a shovel made of sparrows,” Aiden moans. To be real or not to be real, that is the question for Aiden, who struggles after his own identity while being “hosted” by individuals who include the lord of the manor, a doctor, and a butler. Borrowing liberally from such cultural milestones as Groundhog Day, Quantum Leap, and Eyes Wide Shut—and, of course, the stories of Agatha Christie—the book has a built-in audience. It’s a fiendishly clever and amusing novel with explosive surprises, though in the absence of genuine feeling, it tends to keep its audience at arm’s length. Turton’s debut is a brainy, action-filled sendup of the classic mystery, though readers may be hard-pressed to keep up with all its keenly calibrated twists and turns for more than 400 pages.

About the Author

Stuart lives in London with his amazing wife and daughter. He drinks lots of tea.

​When he left university he went travelling for three months and stayed away for five years. Every time his parents asked when he’d be back he told them next week, and meant it.

Stuart is not to be trusted. In the nicest possible way.

He’s got a degree in English and Philosophy, which makes him excellent at arguing and terrible at choosing degrees.

Having trained for no particular career, he has dabbled in most of them. He stocked shelves in a Darwin bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, worked for a technology magazine in London, wrote travel articles in Dubai, and now he’s a freelance journalist. None of this was planned, he just kept getting lost on his way to other places.

He likes a chat. He likes books. He likes people who write books and people who read books. He doesn’t know how to write a biography, so should probably stop before he tells you about his dreams or something. It was lovely to meet you, though.

Her website is stuturton.wordpress.com/

Teacher Resources

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Reading Guide

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