Dial, Sep 13 2012, $17.99
High school junior “Little” Vee is the one who hides behind the curtain designing costumes and applying makeup to others. Matthew challenges her to audition at a prelim Dare for a spot on the popular Nerve reality show that fans pay a fee to watch. Deciding to enter, she pours cold water on her T-shirt; her friend Tommy sends her Dare to the show.
Now she, Ian and several other chosen ones team up and back stab as they begin taking on challenges with coveted customized prizes as their rewards. The stunts increasingly turn dangerous as each participant debases themselves in the not so friendly competition.
Nerve is an unnerving thriller as Jeanne Ryan asks readers how far someone will go for fame and fortune. The storyline is frantically-paced as Vee and the other contestants seemingly answer that question with anything though psychologically what motivates each of them is not very clear. With a nod to Chuck Barris’s Gong Show and Andy Warhol’s wry comment “In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame”, fans will relish this insightful look at the contestants inside the coliseum. Harriet Klausner
Dial, Sep 27 2012, $16.99
Trevelyan gambled away Darkwater Hall and lost all his money. He and his sixteen year old Sarah reside with their former servant Martha in her dilapidated cottage. Her dad remains domicile depressed even as the villagers scorn and humiliate Sarah; while her employer schoolmistress Mrs. Hubbard is even crueler. When Mrs. Hubbard canes Emmeline Rowney, Sarah intercedes; only losing her position. Observing her and seemingly impressed by her courage, Darkwater Hall owner Lord Azrael offers her a chance to regain her family home and atone for the hideous misdeeds of her ancestors. She accepts his demand of her soul, which he will collect in a century.
One-hundred years later, fifteen years old Tom and his mom live in Martha’s Cottage. His mother works as a cleaner at Darkwater Hall School. Tom wants to attend the school where his great-grandmother was once a student, but knows he has no chance. Professor Azrael offers him a deal that has Sarah trying to prevent from happening as she does not want the teen to make the same mistake she made when she sold her soul to Azrael.
This is a superb young adult Faustian thriller told in two parts: Victorian England and the late twentieth century. The storyline is fast-paced yet the key cast members are fully developed. With several stunning twist especially a great climatic spin, fans will root for brave Sarah to keep Tom safe and find a loophole in her damning contract with mysterious Azrael. Harriet Klausner
Invasion of the Appleheads: Deadtime Stories
Annette and Gina Cascone
Starscape/Tor, Jul 3 2012, $14.99
The Lawrence family is divided by generation as to their feelings towards their new hometown Appleton. The parents love the time warp cozy village while the two children (Katie and Andy) are bored.
On Halloween minus one night, the adults take the kids on a haunted hayride at an apple orchard; once allegedly owned by a witch who created a potion to change the apples so that kids taking a bite would become zombies. Katie and Andy notice their peers acting weird as if they are zombies and also observe adults including their parents changing into applehead dolls. Frightened, the pair concludes witches have spiked the cider with an evil potion. They must save their parents and the townsfolk from the wicked witches of Appleton as time ticks away.
This Twisted Sisters’ Deadtime Stories provides a fast-paced scary tale that middle school readers will relish; especially the premise that adults are blind to the threat while kids must save the night. The siblings make a terrific team as they hold the storyline focused while preparing to combat evil. Horrifically vivid (to the delight of fans) the Cascone siblings entertain their audience with a taut horror thriller. Harriet Klausner