Kit feels the power of evil everywhere. Her days at Blackwood, an exclusive boarding school are lived in dread, the nights hold no solace. Can the ...Show synopsisKit feels the power of evil everywhere. Her days at Blackwood, an exclusive boarding school are lived in dread, the nights hold no solace. Can the terror that waits in the darkness pull Kit away from her safe world forever?Hide synopsis
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Let me tell you about a fantastic writer you?re probably not reading. If you?re a librarian or a high school teacher, then I know you?re familiar with her. She?s been nominated for hundreds of awards for Young Adult fiction, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award for a Distinguished Body of Work for Young Adults, from the American Library Association and the School Library Journal. Unfortunately, those accolades are not something most of us hear about. The books that get the big press are often those adapted for TV or film. As many parents, grandparents, teachers and teens themselves will tell you, Young Adult fiction has lately become an exciting and bewildering mix of Manga, dragons, young wizards, unfortunate orphans and catchy series.
All the while, Lois Duncan keeps publishing great stories. They?re not as flashy as Eragon or Harry Potter, but they often incorporate the supernatural. Duncan?s writing has a lot more substance than the Goosebumps or Animorphs series, but her books will more than meet the quota for chills or thrills. Many kids who like to read end up with a reading level that is several school-grade levels above their age experience or emotional development, and are left with few books that will really satisfy them. My dad frowned as I began taking Mom?s Stephen King books off the shelf in third grade. Then, the summer I turned eleven, I was lucky to discover an entire shelf of Lois Duncan books at the Green Free Library. I?m sure my parents were relieved.
Since the 1970?s, Lois Duncan has been turning out thrillers that fit the bill for younger readers craving suspense, a little spookiness, and sympathetic characters. Every few years, the publishers change the covers, giving them something more stylish to wear so they can catch the eye of the latest generation of teens. But I?d recommend Duncan to any mystery fan, no matter how many years-young. Her books accomplish what so many other books of the same genre only promise. Look on the covers of any contemporary thriller or mystery and you?ll find critics raving about ?taut prose? with ?engaging, plausible characters? and a ?fast-paced, page-turning plot?. Duncan delivers all this and more. There?s no need to figure out which one to read first, and there?s not much difficulty figuring out if you?ve already read it, which happens to most of us with our favorite mystery authors. Duncan?s books are not part of a series, nor are they formulaic.
If you need a place to start, my personal favorites are ?Down a Dark Hall? and ?The Third Eye?. Both of these stories have a high school girl as their central character, and both of these girls have a psychic ability that neither realized she had. In ?The Third Eye?, Karen decides to help local police find kidnapped children and finds herself quickly ensnared in dangerous case involving ?serial? kidnappers who strike nursery schools. The chapters reveal one surprise after another about Karen?s family, her current boyfriend and her future. ?Down A Dark Hall?, on the other hand, does not appear to have anything supernatural about it ? at first. Kit has been selected to be one of only four students at a private boarding school whose atmosphere is creepier than she?d like, but otherwise seems fairly normal. The reason she and the other girls are selected, though, is anything but educational. This story, too, eventually reveals things to Kit, not just about the school and the few other people there, but also about memories she couldn?t quite figure out.
Picking up one of these books the other day, I thought I?d glance over it and ended up re-reading the whole thing. People who love to read often joke that once they start a book, the rest of the world goes away ? or they wish it would. With Duncan?s stories, that?s not an idle joke or wish: it?s a guarantee.
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