Despite the characters’ refreshingly intersectional diversity, the thrills fall flat.

EVEN IF WE BREAK

A murder-mystery role-playing game becomes real when its players gather in a remote mountain cabin.

In their elaborate fantasy world of Gonfalon, five disparate high schoolers can safely be themselves, solving murders and exploring new identities. But now, painful rifts threaten their friendship. As a last-ditch effort to reconcile before heading out into the world, they meet in the Arizona mountains for one last game. But soon, players start dying for real, and the killer knows their worst secrets. Are the ghost stories about the mountain true, or is the killer all too human? In alternating chapters, the teens reflect on their lives while fighting to survive. Finn, a trans boy who has arthritis and walks with forearm crutches, loathes asking for help. Ever, who’s trans and nonbinary, struggles to support their working-class family. Maddy, who’s autistic, grapples with pain and trauma after a car accident. Wealthy Liva is beholden to her family’s expectations, and Carter feels unappreciated. Author Nijkamp, who identifies as queer, disabled, and nonbinary, thoughtfully examines the intricacies of neurodivergence, chronic pain, addiction, and belonging. Unfortunately, repetitive, expository narration bogs down the pacing and diminishes suspense. Characters are distinguished more by their respective challenges than by full-fledged personalities, and dialogue is often stilted. However, Ever and Finn’s romance is touching. The teens are White.

Despite the characters’ refreshingly intersectional diversity, the thrills fall flat. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3611-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status.

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  • American Indian Youth Literature Awards Honor

FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER

Testing the strength of family bonds is never easy—and lies make it even harder.

Daunis is trying to balance her two communities: The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, teen is constantly adapting, whether she is with her Anishinaabe father’s side of the family, the Firekeepers, or the Fontaines, her White mother’s wealthy relatives. She has grand plans for her future, as she wants to become a doctor, but has decided to defer her plans to go away for college because her maternal grandmother is recovering from a stroke. Daunis spends her free time playing hockey with her Firekeeper half brother, Levi, but tragedy strikes, and she discovers someone is selling a dangerous new form of meth—and the bodies are piling up. While trying to figure out who is behind this, Daunis pulls away from her family, covering up where she has been and what she has been doing. While dealing with tough topics like rape, drugs, racism, and death, this book balances the darkness with Ojibwe cultural texture and well-crafted characters. Daunis is a three-dimensional, realistically imperfect girl trying her best to handle everything happening around her. The first-person narration reveals her internal monologue, allowing readers to learn what’s going on in her head as she encounters anti-Indian bias and deals with grief.

A suspenseful tale filled with Ojibwe knowledge, hockey, and the politics of status. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76656-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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