CAMP MURDERFACE

From the Camp Murderface series , Vol. 1

Two kids team up to unravel a sinister, supernatural summer-camp mystery in 1983.

Corryn’s at Camp Sweetwater while her parents work on the divorce they think she doesn’t know about. She bonds with Tez when they see eerie faces in the bonfire after a strange stick is added to it during their first night there. In their alternating first-person, present-tense narration, scares come fast and furious, with only the duo seeing (or, at least, acknowledging) that something’s wrong. As the scares grow into physical dangers, action-oriented Corryn and scientifically minded Tez unearth the history of the camp. In a neat subversion of an oft-used trope, they learn that in the 1700s, the lake was cursed by the actions of a nefarious French trapper, leading the resident Miami Nation to abandon the area. Since the 1880s, the summer camp has opened and closed in 20-year cycles marked by disappearances—the first being the three girls whose faces the duo saw in the fire. Tez faces extra risks in physical scenes, as he has Marfan syndrome—only the staff knows; he’s enjoying having his peers treat him like a “regular kid.” Corryn presents white, and Tez is biracial, identifying as “half Chamorro” (his father is from Guam); other campers are diverse. While the main storyline resolves, a tantalizing ending suggests there are more chills to come in a planned sequel.

A ghastly good time. (Horror. 8-14)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287163-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A mesmerizing look at bullying and its aftereffects.

JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE

This story about one girl’s reaction to another seventh grader’s disappearance reveals the internal impact of bullying.

Mallory Moss, a 12-year-old girl in a small Florida town, was the first to meet Jennifer Chan. Chinese American Jennifer moved from the Midwest into the house across the street during the summer. Mallory, who is Korean and implied White, knows that the new girl will have trouble once their predominantly White, Christian school begins: For one thing, Jennifer believes in aliens. Alternating between chapters labeled “Now” that are set in the present day and “Then,” describing events before Jennifer vanishes, the book dives right into the action as Jennifer goes missing in the first chapter. Texts start flying between Mallory and her friends as they worry about what Mallory calls “the Incident” with Jennifer that took place a few days before her disappearance. While the search for Jennifer intensifies, Mallory replays prior events with growing dread, looking for clues. The storyline slowly reveals cracks in friendships, with Mallory questioning her responsibility for many pieces of this puzzle. Keller successfully captures the emotional ennui of middle school tweens who are jockeying for social status, anxious and riddled with doubt, and yearning for a sense of identity. There is clearly enough hurt to go around, and this story provides one solution for getting through dark days.

A mesmerizing look at bullying and its aftereffects. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-31052-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

more