Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers' Favorite
The Malevolent Twin by Mary Sage Nguyen is a rather unusual young adult horror novel that will keep you wondering how it will play out for quite a while. Avery, a rather charming young lady, had an imaginary friend since she was little: Venice. At least everyone but Avery believed her to just be imaginary. The older Avery got, the more insistent and weird her best friend became. When very bad things happen, and signs lead to Avery being the source, Avery is forced to take action - she needs to find out who Venice really is, and why Venice accuses Avery's mother of horrible deeds. What is the secret of Venice? And what is Avery's mother hiding?
The Malevolent Twin by Mary Sage Nguyen has a refreshing, unusual plot. At least I've never read anything similar. Of course, there are horror stories about twins being light and dark, good and evil. We know about those. This one, however, takes the problem even further. What happens when the twin is within you, and the evil becomes part of you without you even knowing, and when you finally become aware of it, what can you do? And can the evil overpower your goodness? This is the problem Avery is facing, and the plot develops at just the right pace. I enjoyed reading this story very much - and the end of the book makes it clear enough that the problem isn't quite solved yet! I would recommend this book to all readers who enjoy unusual plots and good writing.
Reviewed by Diane Donovan for The Midwest Book Review
Avery Tran is a normal teenage girl, with a difference: she has kept her imaginary friend from childhood, Venice . But when the two begin to fight, Avery comes to suspect that her imaginary friend is something more deadly. When she engages the services of an exorcist and a psychic, she is forced to realize that her 'evil twin' is a force that is capable of using Avery's body to exact revenge.
Clues to the real origins of Avery's problems are revealed in the prologue to The Malevolent Twin; but the heart of the story lies in how Avery chooses to deal with something so close to her, and with issues of control and tragedy.
As nightmares turn into gruesome reality (it should be mentioned that graphic violence is part of the plot), Avery struggles with a force that increasingly takes over her body and mind and forces her to do terrible things. Can she guide the growing tide of violence into an arena of justice and good? And why does Venice insist that Avery be her friend?
Bad dreams, suppressed memories, seeming proof that Venice is not a demon but something more... as Avery probes deeper, she uncovers some horrifying truths about her past, Venice's world, and the dangers that threaten everything and everyone around her.
While The Malevolent Twin might seem directed to a teen audience, it's the mature reader capable of absorbing a horror story laced with violence who will best appreciate the mystery and danger in a plot surrounding a teen who faces an unusual threat.
As events wind towards a terrible conclusion, the truth about twins good and evil begins to emerge through not just Avery's experiences, but those of other twins. Readers who believe they know where the story is heading will be intrigued and delighted by a changing story line that holds many surprises.
Events leave the door open for a sequel, but offer a satisfying conclusion to the immediate problem using a dramatic twist that mature teen to adult horror readers will find absorbing and surprising.
Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Lana is a writer and she wants to work undisturbed on her new novel. The only problem is that Lana is suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. She can’t think of what to write. A knock on the door interrupts Lana’s inability to write. Answering, she discovers the mailman with two boxes, one with holes in it. What she finds inside is a surprise from her aunt; a parrot by the name of Darwin. Not only does Darwin wear special reading glasses, but Darwin can also read and, as the story continues, we find out that he can tell a pretty good story, too. So Darwin and Lana team up to write a great story about Darwin the reading parrot. The result is a very popular book that takes Lana and Darwin into classrooms to share their story and hopefully, in the process, encourage young people to read and to write.
Author Mary Sage Nguyen, who has always wanted to be an author with a parrot, is now an author like Lana, inspired by a parrot, though this one is in her imagination. The Reading Parrot Named Darwin is a sweet picture book story that will give young readers a few chuckles and inspire them not only to read, but also to write their own stories. As Lana and Darwin bond in friendship and creativity, the two teach each other the strength of working together as a team. They also help each other realize their dreams and goals and to really believe in themselves – important concepts for young readers.