4 of 5
Little Monsters
336 pages; Delacorte Press
Kacey is a teenager with a wild-child history who's been sent to live with a new family in Broken Falls, Wisconsin. (Does the town's name mean something's busted, or that somebody is about to be saved?) She and her friends struggle to endure the wintry Midwest tedium, whether that means keggers at classmates' houses or spooking one another by conducting séances in an abandoned barn where the ghost of a "Red Woman" is rumored to wander at night. But once one of Kacey's friends goes missing, the typical mean-girl jibes intensify into more serious accusations. Kacey becomes the girl with the purple hair and the sketchy past who may have something more to hide. "Growing up in a town like this," she says, "some people catch boredom like a virus." As the story shuttles between the perspectives of Kacey and the missing girl, Thomas creates a disturbing portrait of how bad news and gossip can curdle when mixed together. But the real allure of the novel is its savvy heroine, Kasey, who tears apart the expected stereotypes about teenage girls. "That's what no one wants to talk about," she says. "That at some point, every little girl grows up and gets ruined."
— Mark Athitakis