Katzenjammer

Francesca Zappia. Greenwillow, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-316165-8

Zappia (Now Entering Addamsville) paints a sinister picture of modern teenage life in this disturbing high school horror novel. Seventeen-year-old Cat cannot recall when or how she and her fellow students got trapped inside School, a living organism with halls that expand and contract, showers that spray blood, and no clear escape. She also doesn’t know why her teachers became inanimate objects, or why she and half her peers started mutating into caricatures of themselves, while the cruel popular kids remain unchanged. But when class president Julie, who turned into a walking, talking porcelain doll, is found smashed, Cat, whose face has become a feline mask of hardened flesh, teams up to find the killer with best friend Jeffrey, whose head is now a crayon-decorated cardboard box. As Cat investigates, memories of her past return—some sweet, but most marred by sadistic bullies. The author’s stylized b&w illustrations amplify the tale’s nightmarish feel. Brutal physical and psychological violence and complex, mostly white-cued, characters pervade this relentlessly bleak interpretation of high school society. As the mystery’s pieces click into place, the devastating reality of the teens’ situation becomes clear. Zappia’s denouement, though earned, offers not catharsis but despair. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 14–up. Agent: Louise Fury, Bent Agency. (June)
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