I’ll Never Tell

Friends for life. Or death. Spring break. Aruba.

Swimming, sunshine, and golden beaches. It was supposed to be the best time of Anna’s life. Paradise. But then the unthinkable happens. Anna’s best friend is found brutally murdered. And when the local police begin to investigate the gruesome crime, suspicion falls on one person—Anna.

They think she’s dangerous, and they’re determined to prove her guilt. With the police and media sparking a witch-hunt against her, Anna is running out of time to prove her innocence. But as she digs deeper into her friend’s final moments, she finds a tangled web of secrets, lies, and betrayal.

Will she clear her name in time? When the truth is finally revealed, it’s more shocking than anyone could have imagined.

Originally published as Dangerous Girls in 2013, I’ll Never Tell portrays a group of friends as partying rich kids, who spend their free time drinking, doing drugs, and having sex. The story is told through Anna’s point of view and jumps to various timeframes including when Anna meets her best friend Elise, a trip to Aruba during spring break, various points of the investigation, and Anna’s current experiences in jail. The shifting time periods are not confusing because they are clearly labeled, however, the format doesn’t allow any of the supporting characters to be well developed. As a result, it’s hard to sympathize with any of the characters, including Elise who is murdered.

Even though the story is a mystery, a large portion of the plot focuses on Anna’s jail experiences and explores how the wealthy escape the arms of the law. While this story thread is interesting, it is not well-developed, and in the end, none of the rich suspects are guilty of the crime. Another flaw in the story is the conclusion, which has several inconsistencies that take away from the murder reveal. When the murderer finally is uncovered, there is little shock value, but plenty of confusion.

In a world full of good books, readers can find engaging mysteries without the over-the-top partying and gratuitous sexual content. Unfortunately, I’ll Never Tell falls short in both mystery and entertainment. Readers looking for an excellent mystery should read Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards, Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre, and the Jess Tennant Mysteries Series by Jane Casey.

 Sexual Content

  • While at a bar, Chelsea tries to get a boy to dance with her. “She grinds above him like a lap dancer, laughing, until he finally catches her around the waist and follows her into the dark, one hand draped possessively across her shoulder.”
  • Anna and her boyfriend, Tate, kiss often. For example, Anna reaches up “to kiss him, and this time, there’s no tension, just a familiar low heat building, and Tate’s hands sliding along the edge of my shirt—”
  • Anna, Tate, and Elise dance. “Tate brings me (Anna) tight against him, and then it’s the three of us, me and Elise dancing up close to him and spinning away. . . Tate laughs between us, his hands linger on Elise’s waist as she grinds against him. . . I grab his hand away from her, pulling him wordlessly to the edge of the dance floor, my back finding some surface, his hands finding the curve of my hips, his lips finding mine.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • Elise says Tate is a “man-whore. He’s already dated four different girls this year.”
  • On Halloween, Tate likes Anna’s “sexy costume. . . His lips press against my neck again, but this time he bites down softly, playfully. . . he’s pulled me around so I’m facing him, his lips hard and searching on mine. . .” The scene is described over a page.
  • Elise says she dumped a guy because “he had a two-inch dick and no idea what to do with it.”
  • Elise and Tate plan their first time having sex. “He grinned, trailing his hand lower, down my throat, and across the sensitive skin of my breast. I felt my stomach flip over. . . Tate dipped his head, following the path of his hand with his lips now, kissing a winding trail down my body, while the other hand gently stroked, lower, in a slow rhythm that left me gasping.”
  • Elise has sex with several boys that she just met. Because of Elise, Anna realizes, “I could kiss a boy, breathless against the back wall of some club, and then just walk away not even knowing his name. Or, like Elise, do more. Do whatever we wanted.”
  • Elise and Anna have a sexual relationship, but their kisses are the only thing described.
  • While in Aruba, Tate and Anna share a room. One morning, “He pulls me back up, kissing me hard as he rolls over and crushes me in his embrace. . . then the kiss deepens, his hands reaching impatiently for the flesh of my thighs, easing them apart. I feel him harden against me.” When Anna asks Tate to wait, he decides to go for a run.
  • After hooking up with a boy, Elise complains about him. “You know he did this weird role-playing thing. . .He got off on the whole domination thing, you know, holding me down, trying to make me beg. I mean, I like getting thrown around as much as the next girl, but this was different.” Later, the boy tried to spike Elise’s drink with liquid Ecstasy.

Violence

  • While in jail, an inmate attacks Anna. “The girl lunges at me. I barely have time to get my hands up in defense before her body is on mine and she’s tearing at my hair, clawing at my face. . .The girl drives her elbow into my stomach, making me gulp for air. Her face is lit up, breathless and bright, nose bloody from one of my desperate blocks.” The fight is broken up when Anna is pulled off the inmate. Someone gives Anna a syringe that makes everything go black.
  • Elise and Anna get into an argument. Anna keeps “holding tight, until she shoves me away hard enough to send me flying to the ground among the shattered glass. . . there’s a dull pain in the back of my head, where it cracked against the floor.”
  • Elise slept with Niklas once. Later, he goes to see Anna in prison. Niklas says, “Found yourself a prison bitch yet? Some action in the shower?”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Anna, Elise, and a group of friends go to Aruba over spring break. They drink beer, vodka, and other alcohol excessively throughout the trip.
  • During a trial, an attorney tries to “establish Miss Chevalier’s normal partying routine” by showing a picture of her and her friends drinking. Anna says, “We all drank. Just some wine, or vodka with mixers, you know? The guys had beer.”
  • During the trial, Anna’s attorney tells her that the prosecutor will “ask about the weed and the pills. About my mom’s Xanax, and the times Elise tried her dad’s Percocet, about the cocaine Melanie saw Elise try over Christmas break, and the liquid X Niklas tried to feed her in the club that night.”
  • Anna thinks the lawyers are trying to say “[she] led Elise astray. . . that [Anna] coerced her into skipping school, and staying out too late, and drinking dollar shots in dive bars until she screwed strange guys in the bathroom of clubs that should have never let [them] in.”
  • Elise and Anna go to a restaurant and “sip cocktails from sugar-rimmed glasses.”
  • Tate meets Anna at a college party where they both drink beer. Later, they “do lime Jell-O-shots together.”
  • Anna and her friends go to each other’s “big, empty houses, sneaking liquor and smoking weed.”
  • After Elise is murdered, one of her friends “spends most of the day curled up in his room with the blinds drawn, woozy on anti-anxiety meds.”
  • Elise takes prescription pills “sometimes. When I don’t’ want to deal with . . . feeling, like this.”
  • After Elise is murdered, Tate “was having panic attacks. . . so they put him on a bunch of meds. He was pretty out of it.”
  • While in prison, Anna is given sleeping pills.

Language

  • “Oh my God”, “God” and “Jesus” are used as explanations occasionally.
  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes: ass, asshole, bitch, bastard, bullshit, dykes, hell, pissed, and shit.
  • When Elise ignores Anna at school, Anna thinks, “What was she going to do? Tell her friends to go fuck themselves, cast herself out of their world, all alone?”
  • Elise tells a girl she is a “skanky bitch with no soul.”
  • One of Anna’s friend’s posts, “So hungry, could murder a fucking rhino” on his social media account.
  • Elise flirts with a young vendor and then upsets him. He yells, “Fucking Americans! You are whores!”
  • Someone calls Anna a pussy.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

 No one wants me to tell you about the disappearance of Sloane Sullivan.

Not the lawyers or the cops. Not her friends or family. Not even the boy who loved her more than anyone. And most certainly not the United States Marshals Service. You know, the people who run the witness protection program? Yeah, those folks definitely don’t want me talking to you.

But I don’t care. I have to tell someone.

If I don’t, you’ll never know how completely wrong things can go. How a single decision can change everything. How, when it really comes down to it, you can’t trust anyone. Not even yourself. You have to understand, so it won’t happen to you next. Because you never know when the person sitting next to you isn’t who they claim to be…and because there are worse things than disappearing.

This story begins with Sloane once again changing her name and going to a new school. While Sloane is quickly brought into a group of friends, none of the characters are likable. By the end of the story, readers will wonder why Sloane let any of these people into her life. Each character is so full of secrets that it is difficult to distinguish the truth from rumors. While Sloane’s lies are understandable, the rest of the characters come off as self-centered, manipulating liars.

Sloane tells her own story, which allows the reader to understand her motivations. In addition to her thoughts, Sloane often has flashbacks. Readers will empathize with Sloane, who constantly has to move in order to keep safe. Her only stability is Marc, who is posing as a federal Marshal. Marc has taught Sloane the importance of being aware of her surroundings as well as how to protect herself. Despite this, Sloane makes so many mistakes that it’s amazing she is still alive.

While The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan has a unique premise and suspenseful moments, by the end, none of the characters can be trusted. The complicated ending is not believable, and even Marc, Sloane’s protector, turns out to be a bit of a creep. At 400 pages, some of the high school drama and Sloane’s inner struggles could have been cut out. If you’re looking for a suspenseful mystery romance, some better options would be Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards and Crossing the Line by Simone Elkeles.

Sexual Content

  • While talking about the senior trip, someone says, “I heard the chaperones go to bed early and everyone sneaks out and hooks up.”
  • When Sloane was a freshman, she skipped school to hang out with Ben, a senior. “Ben gave a throaty laugh as he pushed my brown hair off my shoulders and kissed the side of my neck. My heart jumped in my chest.” When Marc finds them, Ben “leaned in and kissed me right on the mouth, all the while glaring at Mar . . I’d done my fair share of imagining my first kiss, even the possibility it might happen with Ben, but I never thought it would happen just to taunt Mark.”
  • When Sloane enters a new school, she sees some students “making out in front of classrooms.”
  • Sloane thinks back to a time when she had a boyfriend named Duke. “He leaned in and kissed me. It was slow and sweet and steady, just like him.”
  • Sloane’s friend, Livie, is upset that her boyfriend broke up with her. Livie says, “But we were together for almost two months. We made out tons of times. . . That counts for something, right?”
  • According to rumors, Jason has “slept with half the girls in the school.”
  • Jason said he left a party because “I found my date making out with him [the host] in his bedroom?” Another time, he agreed to go to a party with Lauren, but “when I got there, she and her friends were already drunk. . . she kept trying to take me to her room so we could be ‘alone.’ She said she wanted to ring in the new year by doing something special and she wanted me to be her first.”
  • When a girl disappears, some people say that she’s “hooking up with a guy and she’s “holed up in a motel room somewhere.”
  • Even though Sawyer knew Sloane didn’t like him, he kissed her.
  • While on the senior trip, Livie implies she’s going to a boy’s room to have sex. Livie says she can ask the guy if “he has any lonely friends.” Sloane tells her, “I don’t want some random trip hookup, Livie.”
  • Sawyer and Livie “slept together.”
  • Once Jason knows who Sloane really is, they kiss. Sloane “grabbed a fistful of his shirt, pulling him the rest of the way to me. . . So when I finally pulled away from him, breathless and dizzy from the amazing softness of his lips and the feeling of his hands against my skin. . .” After this, they kiss several times, but the kisses aren’t described.
  • After months, Jason and Sloane are reunited. “And then Jason is kissing me. His kisses are urgent at first, insistent like he’s trying to erase the last eight months. Then they slowly turn soft and sweet and gentle. . .”

Violence

  • Sloane was told her father committed suicide, but later she finds out he was murdered. The death is not described.
  • When a boy gives Sloane an unwanted kiss, she “yanked my knee up as hard as I could until it landed between Ben’s legs. He groaned and doubled over, and I shoved him with both hands. . . I watched him hit the ground.”
  • Sloane has a series of flashbacks. She saw two men kill a man. “The older man slumped against the warehouse at their feet. His blond curly hair was matted with blood and his face was swollen and bruised.” The flashback is described over two pages.
  • While at a birthday party, the girl’s father walks behind Sloane and scares her. “Without thinking, I crouched down and swung my leg around in an arc just like Mark taught, sweeping a man’s legs out from under him. He crashed onto his back with a loud oof . . .”
  • Sawyer gets angry at Jason. “Sawyer planted his hands on Jason’s chest and shoved with all his drunken might. Jason stumbled backward, but caught himself before he fell.” Sloane gets between them and stops the fight.
  • Sawyer taunts Jason and Sloane “grabbed Sawyer’s wrist with my right hand, pulled his arm across my chest, and flipped him over my shoulder in one impossibly fast movement. He hit the ground with a loud smack. . . Then he lunged at me. Faster than I could react, Jason jumped in front of Sawyer and punched him so hard his teeth clicked together as his head snapped back. . . He was out cold.”
  • When the “bad guy” shows up at Sloane’s school, she runs home only to find a man’s body. The man’s eyes “were dull and empty and I couldn’t look at them.”
  • Marc’s family is full of gangsters. He says, “For my tenth birthday, my uncle Gino taught me the best places to cut a person so it would hurt like hell but they wouldn’t bleed out before they confessed.”
  • A rival gangster, Reuben, killed Marc’s little sister. Reuben “told us where we could find her body. He even mocked the way she’d begged for her life.”
  • When Marc threatens Jason with a gun, Sloane “shot him.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While talking about the senior trip, someone tells Sloane, “people smuggle alcohol along and party in their hotel rooms.”
  • In the past, Sawyer got drunk and “got pissed someone beat [him] at cards and punched a hole in the drywall in [his] basement.”
  • While at a party a girl is drugged. The doctors “think someone must’ve slipped something in her drink. . . No injuries or evidence of sexual assault or anything.”
  • At prom, Sawyer gets so drunk that he can’t stand up.

Language

  • Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes ass, crap, damn, hell, holy hell, pissed, and shit. For example, a boy tells Sloane, “You’re getting ready to tell me we shouldn’t be friends, right? That you don’t want to be dragged into all of my crap.”
  • Christ, Jesus, oh Lord, God, and good God are used as exclamations occasionally. For example, when someone makes a sexual innuendo, Sloane says, “Oh my God! You did not just turn Harry Potter into something dirty.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Occasionally, Sloane prays for something. For example, when Sloane sees someone from her past, she prays that her brown eyes “would be enough to throw him off.”
  • When Sloane and her friends sneak out of school, they go to a carousel. When the cops show up, Sloane introduces everyone. Sloane “prayed, prayed, he didn’t know the characters’ names from The Goonies.”

 

The Canyon’s Edge

Nora’s birthday marks the one-year anniversary of the worst day of her life. To distract them both from the memories of a horrible mass shooting that killed Nora’s mom, her dad surprises her with a trip to explore a slot canyon deep in the Arizona desert. Nora hopes they’ll find some remnants of the happiness they felt when her mother was alive.

But in the twisting, winding depths, the unthinkable happens. Suddenly Nora finds herself lost and alone, at the bottom of a canyon, in the middle of a desert. Separated from her supplies, she faces dehydration, venomous scorpions, deadly snakes, and worst of all, the Beast who has terrorized her dreams for the last year. To save herself and her father, Nora must conquer her fears—and outsmart the canyon’s dangers.

The middle part of Nora’s story is told through poetry that uses repetition, alliteration, and other types of figurative langue to convey Nora’s emotions. Nora’s fear of “the Beast” becomes apparent as she imagines the man who killed her mother. “Now I feel the Beast below me, / sneering, sniping, snapping/ his snarling mouth / his claws outstretched, / waiting, patiently waiting, / for me to fall.” The poetry has an emotional impact and also creates a sense of panic, suspense, and fear.

The poetry creates wonderfully descriptive passages and the text often is placed to create a visual element that enhances the story’s emotion. For example, when a flash flood takes Nora’s father, the descriptive words are placed in the form of a whirlpool. The visual effect of the words helps the reader imagine the story’s events and the emotion behind them.

Nora’s story begins with Nora and her father building protective walls around themselves in order to shut out all other people. Nora suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, and loneliness. Even though Nora struggles with understanding why her mother died, the story never explains why a man killed strangers. Yet the terrifying events in the canyon allow Nora to deal with her past and her story ends on a hopeful note as she begins to heal.

Even though the story uses Nora’s stream-of-consciousness narration, The Canyon’s Edge is not a character-driven story. Instead, the story focuses on 48 hours of heart-stopping tension as Nora fights to survive scorpions, dehydration, and other dangers. Nora’s emotional trauma, the death of her mother, and the life-and-death struggle she faces may upset younger readers, but will be enjoyed by older readers. The Canyon’s Edge will take readers on a twisting emotional ride that will stay with them for a long time after they put the book down.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • One year ago, Nora’s mother was killed in a mass shooting. Nora thinks back to the event. “First come the tremendous booms. My mother, singing to me seconds ago is shoving me under the table so frantically, so desperately, that I bash my head on the edge and her fingers leave bruises on my body.”
  • Sofia Moreno, a woman in the restaurant, tackles the shooter. “Sofia Moreno, / who died / while giving her two boys, / while giving everyone, / while giving me, a chance / a bigger chance. . . to flee, / to hide, / to act, / to survive.” Sofia is able to stop the shooter before she dies.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Damn is used once.

 

Supernatural

  • None

 

Spiritual Content

  • Nora’s psychologist tells her about Gerald Manley Hopkins, a poet. “He was searching for a pattern. He believed if he sketched the same wave twice, it would be proof. . . That there was a god.”
  • When Nora sleeps in a cave, she prays “for help, though I don’t know who or what could possibly help me here inside a hole in the wall on the side of a canyon.”
  • As Nora walks through the desert, she prays “for help.”

The New Year’s Party

It’s five minutes to 1965. Beth should be at the party having fun with her boyfriend. Instead, she’s looking for her best friend, Karen. Suddenly, a group of men barge into the house with guns—they’re attempting a robbery. One man grabs Jeremy, Beth’s shy brother, puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. However, nothing happens because the gun is fake. The robbery was just a prank pulled by Karen and some seniors. Upset, Jeremy runs off. Beth follows him into his car. They’re driving recklessly in the snow when suddenly they hit a boy. They swerve, then crash.

The story jumps in time to the present day. Reenie, Greta, Archie, and Sean are all friends who enjoy playing pranks on each other. For example, Archie hides in Reenie’s closet pretending to be a corpse. Reenie starts to get the idea that their pranks are going too far, though, when she falls off a cliff and nearly drowns in a frozen lake. She has an uneasy feeling when Archie suggests she throw a house party but ultimately agrees.

Archie and his friend Marc come up with the perfect prank to pull at Reenie’s party. They will get Sandi, the most popular girl in school, to ask P.J., the new quiet kid, to the party. At the party, Sandi will kiss P.J., then pretend to die. This prank goes too far when P.J. actually dies from shock. Reenie and her friends are horrified, but the horror turns to confusion when P.J.’s body disappears. In the next couple of weeks, Marc and Sandi are both murdered. Someone is taking revenge on Reenie and her friends, but they can’t figure out who.

 In addition to the supernatural elements, The New Year’s Party has relatable characters, who are not perfect. Like many typical teens, the characters try to justify their wrongdoings. In addition, the story includes fighting couples, friends who party together, and friends that have trouble with trigonometry. The story jumps back and forth in time, but the time differences are separated by chapters.

In the climax of the story, Liz, P.J.’s sister, invites Reenie and her friends to a New Year’s party. At the party, Liz reveals who killed Marc and Sandi, and chaos ensues. This exciting conclusion that connects the past to the present will shock readers.

The New Year’s Party is a gripping story that will keep readers turning the pages. Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger. The vocabulary is simple, and the plot moves quickly. Reenie’s friends play multiple pranks that always seem real, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. In true R.L. Stine fashion, the book ends with a twist. The New Year’s Party is a good book for readers of all types who are looking for a quick, enjoyable read.

Sexual Content

  • Beth is at a party scanning the room for her friend when she sees a couple who “were making out in the corner.”
  • When the clock strikes midnight, Beth’s boyfriend, Todd, “pulled Beth to him and kissed her.”
  • Todd asks Beth if she wants to move to the stairs, where “four couples sat on the carpeted steps, making out.” Beth “didn’t want to make out in front of the entire party.”
  • At Reenie’s house, Artie sat next to Gret, then “leaned forward and gave her a long kiss.”
  • Sandi, a pretty, popular girl, slow dances with P.J. When the song ends, she “pulled P.J.’s face to hers. Kissed him. A long, slow kiss.” Reenie observes Sandi “kissing the helpless P.J. so intensely. . . her mouth moving over his, her arms wrapped tightly around his slender shoulders.”
  • Before he leaves the party, Sean “pulled [Reenie] close and kissed her. Reenie wished the kiss would never end. She didn’t want to think about anything but the way Sean’s lips felt against hers.”
  • Reenie is hiding under the bleachers in the gym so she can listen to Liz and Ty’s conversation. Reenie watches as “Liz gently pulled Ty’s head to hers and kissed him. A long, serious kiss.”

Violence

  • A group of men with pistols crash a house party. One of the men grabbed Jeremy and “pressed the gun barrel against Jeremy’s head. Then he pulled the trigger.” The gun didn’t fire because it was plastic. The whole thing was a prank played by a group of high school seniors.
  • Jeremy is driving recklessly on icy roads with Beth in the car. They saw a “dim figure” in the road before “something bounced on the hood with a heavy thud. A face appeared through the foggy windshield. A boys’ face, his mouth open in a scream of surprise. The boy dropped to the ground. The car rolled over him with a hard bump.” Because they are scared of facing the fact they just killed a boy, they do not stop to help him and keep driving.
  • Jeremy lost control of the car on the icy roads. “The car smashed hard into the snowbank. . . [Beth’s] scream ended in a grunt as she was thrown forward and her head cracked against the dashboard . . . Beth felt warm blood trickle down her forehead.” Beth watches the car break “through the snowbank” and feels “shock after shock of pain.” Beth is able to crawl out of the car, but she later realizes she is just a spirit, and her body is still in the car, dead.
  • As Reenie puts her sweater in her closet, she sees “bulging, blank eyes.” At first she believes it to be a “corpse” with “gooey blood, dark and caked, oozed over his head.” The corpse is actually Sean, and he was pulling a prank on Reenie.
  • Reenie falls off the edge of a drop-off that overlooks a lake. “She was falling, sliding and tumbling, down the snowy hillside. It knocked the breath out of her. She struggled to gasp in air.” She falls onto the frozen lake, and her “hip smashed against the hard surface. She let out a small moan of pain.” As she is walking to the bank, “the ice beneath her gave way with a groan. She slid into the freezing, black water.” Struggling to get out, “she thrashed her arms, trying to pull herself back up to the surface. . . her head hit the underside of the ice. ‘I can’t breathe,’ she realized. She pounded on the ice with her fists. Clawed at it.” Reenie passes out, but Sean rescues her.
  • As Artie speeds into an intersection with Reenie in the car, another car hits them. Reenie heard “metal slam against metal. Shattering glass. The car spun, slamming her into the door. . . She felt the seat belt biting into her stomach, as she was thrown forward. Then she lurched back against the seat.”
  • After Sandi kisses P.J., she shoves him away and “uttered a long, frightening moan. . . She sank to her knees, her eyes wide, her mouth hanging open. . . Sandi crumpled into a heap on the floor.”
  • Artie and Marc are working in the garage when Reenie and Greta come over. Artie leaves Marc alone in the garage. Marc’s friends hear “a high, ragged scream of terror” come from the garage. When they rush to the garage, they see “a body lay sprawled over the shiny red hood. Marc’s body. Blood dripped from his mouth and nose and his head . . . was twisted around on his neck . . . completely backward.” Marc was murdered.
  • Reenie leaves Sandi alone at the Burger Shack. When Reenie comes back, she finds Sandi dead in a trashcan. “Sandi’s eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. But she lay on her chest . . . Her head had been twisted around backward. And her face held the same terrified expression. Her blue eyes wide with horror.”
  • Liz is holding Sean, Greta, Archie, and Reenie captive. Sean holds a knife as he demands that Liz open the door to let them go. Liz “threw herself at Sean,” who “toppled to the floor with Liz on top of him. . . His body twisted and thrashed as he tried to throw Liz off.” Liz “tried to choke” Sean but Reenie “grabbed Liz by the shoulders and struggled to pull her off Sean.” Liz “tore at Sean’s wrist with her teeth,” causing him to drop the knife.
  • Once she regains the knife, Liz “grabbed Sean and pressed the blade against his throat . . . Reenie saw a drop of red blood roll down Sean’s neck.”
  • While Reenie distracts Liz, Sean “grabbed Liz around the waist. He pinned her against him with one arm—and grabbed the knife away with his other hand.” Liz “stumbled into [Sean]. And the knife plunged deep into her chest.” Everyone is frightened, especially when, “No blood poured from the wound.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Reenie has a house party and runs into Marc. “He stood so close she could smell the beer on his breath.”
  • At the party, Reenie notices Artie’s eyes look watery, and thinks, “Great. They’ve both been drinking.”

Language

  • Artie threatens P.J. after P.J. dropped a weight on him. Artie says, “I’m going to get that little creep, P.J.” Artie goes on to call P.J., “You little jerk!”
  • After he describes their “dumb practical jokes” to a police officer, Sean admits he sounded like a “total jerk.”

Supernatural

  • After they crash the car, Beth and Jeremy realize they are dead. They can see their bodies in the car. Jeremy tries to get back inside his body, but he can’t. He cries, “My arms passed right through my body!” Beth realizes Jeremy is starting to fade. Beth feels herself fading too. “Only the darkness remained. Everywhere. Closing on her. Claiming her.”
  • It is revealed that Liz and P.J. are the same people as Beth and Jeremy; they just changed names. Their spirits somehow reappeared solidly enough for them to act like real people. They died in a car crash thirty years ago, and they were trapped for years in a “cold, gray place.” Liz explains, “As the years passed, we grew stronger. And then suddenly we were back. Back in our old bodies. People could see us and hear us again.”
  • Ty confesses he was the boy Beth and Jeremy ran over, and he was also brought back to life to get revenge.
  • As the clock strikes midnight, Beth, Jeremy, and Ty fight with each other. “Liz and Ty and P.J. whirled around, tugging each other as if in a mad dance. Faster and faster. Waves of icy air swept off their bodies. . . A ghostly whirlwind.”
  • Beth, Jeremy, and Ty disappear once the clock strikes midnight. “A high, shrill whistle pieced Reenie’s ears. Louder. Shriller. Until Reenie covered both ears to shut it out. And the three ghosts began to fade. . . They faded to shadows. Then the shadows faded to smoke. A spinning column of smoke . . . The smoke faded. And floated away.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jill Johnson

Alex Rider: Never Say Die

Alex is now living in San Francisco, trying to recover from the tragic death of his caregiver, Jack Starbright. Alex was forced to watch Jack’s murder at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA.  With Jack gone, Alex struggles to find his place. When he gets an unexpected and cryptic email, he’s sure it’s from Jack. In an attempt to prove that Jack is alive, Alex boards a flight to Egypt and begins searching for clues to Jack’s whereabouts.

Alex’s story jumps from Egypt to France to Wales. As Alex searches for Jack, he comes face to face with twin brothers, who plan to kidnap the children of the wealthiest citizens of the world. Soon Alex is caught up in a tangle of intrigue that may lead to his death.

Packed with action, unexpected twists, and a mystery, Never Say Die will catch readers’ interest from the very first page. Alex is a strong character, who uses his brains to get out of difficult situations. The story descriptions will carry the reader into Alex’s world—a world that is often filled with fear. The evil twins and the people who help them are vicious criminals who have no problem murdering anyone that is perceived as a threat. Their willingness to kill and the violent descriptions of the creative ways they murder may cause some readers to have nightmares. Anthony Horowitz tells an engaging story that deals with terrorists, murder, and kidnapping.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A woman kills two pilots by using tetrodotoxin. It “is extremely fast-acting, shutting down a person’s nervous system in minutes. Brad struggled to his feet but died before he was halfway there . . . Sergeant Brad Perkins stared up at her with empty eyes.”
  • Later in the story, the same woman tries to poison Alex. “The deadly poison, tetrodotoxin, shot silently across the room and penetrated his jacket. Alex jerked backward, his shoulders slamming into the door. . . Slowly, he slid down to the floor and lay still.” Luckily, the poisonous dart only hits his wallet. Alex and the woman scuffle. “She was strangling him. The pupils were dancing in her eyes, and her lips were stretched in a smile as she used her weight to press him down, her hands gripping tighter and tighter.” Alex is able to grab a bedside light. “With the very last of his strength, he swung it into the side of the woman’s head. He felt metal connect with bone . . . Dragana keeled over and lay still.”
  • Alex has nightmares about his past when two men tied him to a chair and force him watch a video of “the person he most loves” die. “The car drove out of the fort and into the desert. And then, as it had done the night before and every night after . . .it blew up.”
  • Alex stops two boys from harassing a young boy. The boys retaliate. “Colin swung the knife, aiming for Alex’s chest . . . Alex took hold of his wrist with one hand and his elbow with the other . . . Colin’s hand with the knife rushed past him.” The knife accidentally “sliced across Clayton’s arm.” Colin then tries to hit Alex, who avoids the punch. “Alex was standing next to a lamppost. Colin’s fist slammed into the metal. Alex actually heard his fingers break.”
  • A man tries to capture Alex. The man with a gun tries to get out of a car when “Alex kicked out, slamming the door. The man shouted and fell back . . .” Alex is able to escape.
  • A group of men try to kill Alex. During the scene, which takes place over approximately six pages, Alex is forced to defend himself. One man is knocked unconscious when Alex drops a cannonball “on the side of his head.” Alex makes a cactus bomb and throws it at a man, hitting him in the face.  “It didn’t bounce off. . . Instead it stuck there, with at least a dozen spikes piercing his lips, his cheeks, the side of his nose and one of his eyes, each barb injecting its poison into his nervous system.” One of the men tries to stab Alex, but the man is shot. “. . . His hand became a splash of red and the knife spun away. A second shot, and he was thrown onto his back. Alex knew at once that he wouldn’t be getting up again.”
  • In order to escape from bad men, Alex makes a trap that causes an explosion. The men “both screamed and reeled backwards, crashing into each other. The whole of the bald man’s head seemed to catch fire for a few seconds . . . The other man had thrown himself down. He was rolling over and over on the carpet, his clothes blazing.” As Alex tries to escape, one of the men shoots a woman.
  • Two brothers have their father killed. “. . . Carlo was gunned down in his Jacuzzi by his own bodyguard . . . With Carlo gone, the brothers took control of the family, and the next few years were bloodier and more violent than any that had gone before.”
  • The two brothers go to the hospital to kill a woman by using a trick. “It was one of their favorite tricks, and they would take turns—one watching, one doing the actual work. The wire went straight up her nose and into the medulla oblongata, the nerve mass located at the lower base of the brain . . . she was dead before she knew what had happened.”
  • Two brothers catch Alex spying and tie him to a chair, “his hands tied behind him, the rope so tight that it was cutting into his flesh.” The brothers intend to kill him by using “cement shoes.” A man padlocks a cement block around Alex’s ankle and throws him into the ocean. Alex is saved by a scuba diver.
  • In an attempt to escape, Alex attacks a man with a nail. Alex “smiled with satisfaction as the point drove into Stallone’s neck. Stallone howled and fell back, blood spurting out between his fingers.”
  • The two brothers give a woman cyanide. “She had suddenly become very still. In fact she was staring at the ceiling with empty eyes. Her tongue was sticking out of the corner of her mouth. Her face had gone mauve.”
  • The two brothers kidnap a van full of children and hold them for ransom. When the parents try to negotiate, the brothers discuss killing one of the children. “The important thing is to make sure it’s one of the poorer children. We don’t want to upset any of the billionaires.”
  • When attempting to save the children, a woman takes out one of the bad guys. She hits him with a chisel. “But it was the wooden handle that slammed into his skull, and with a grunt, he fell to one side . . . He was out cold.”
  • As Alex and his friend lead the children to safety, the bad guys try to recapture them. The scene takes place over about a chapter and a half. A security guard dies saving Alex’s life. “Alex saw spatters of blood appear across Philby’s back, forming hideous red stains that spread through his shirt.” During the escape, Alex sets fire to a structure. “Several of the guards had been caught in the blaze. He had heard them screaming.”
  • During the escape scene, Alex puts a thermos in a train’s chimney causing an explosion. The brothers “didn’t even know it had happened. They simply felt a jolt as if some gigantic gust of wind, coming out of nowhere, had hit the Midnight Flyer on its side.” They crash into the face of a mountain. One of the men on the train knows he is going to die. “His face, already badly burned, distorted one last time in sheer terror as the steam locomotive smashed into a solid wall of rock.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the character’s “career had ended following a drunken fight with another pilot. She was twice his size, but even so, she had put him into the hospital. In fact, he was still there.”
  • A character had “drunk too much wine. The third bottle was definitely a mistake, and she had felt quite giddy as she had climbed into the taxi. . .”
  • Two of the characters help in their father’s business. “Even as teenagers, they loved the idea of becoming gangsters and had actually helped their father on occasion—for example, carry drugs inside their teddy bears on international flights.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

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