Potent, atmospheric, and wholly satisfying.

THE RIVER HAS TEETH

When girls start disappearing in a Tennessee nature park, a family of local witches worries they’ll be blamed.

The Lloyds have lived on the Bend—an area bordering a river and the nature park—for generations, and the land is imbued with their Scottish forebears’ magic. The Bend, not their bloodline, is the source of the Lloyds’ power, but lately it’s felt corrupted, making their spells go awry and frightening off all but the most desperate customers. So when Natasha Greymont asks for help finding her missing sister, Rochelle, Della Lloyd is reluctant. The Greymonts’ wealth and status should grant them access to resources Della can’t even imagine, and solving the mystery may in turn destroy Della’s own family. But Natasha isn’t what she seems, and the two girls, both White, are irresistibly drawn together. Alternating chronological perspectives map their shift from antagonism to trust. There is a familiar, genuine rapport that grounds the recurring theme of chosen family between Natasha, who’s bi, and her pansexual best friend, Georgia Greer, who is cued as Black, as well as with Rochelle’s best friend, Margo Yoon, who is Korean and pansexual. This genre-blending contemporary thriller offers a searing indictment of men who prey on women while the book’s fantasy elements offer a form of revenge and resolution. The broad narrative strokes that address the book’s intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender will prompt important conversations by readers.

Potent, atmospheric, and wholly satisfying. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-0-06-289425-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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