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Best Teen Love Stories of 2014

Expect this truly one-of-a-kind series to come to a thundering close.

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BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE

From the Raven Cycle series , Vol. 3

As the Raven Boys grow closer to their goal of finding the Welsh king Glendower, not surprisingly, problems arise in this third book of a planned four-volume series.

Blue Sargent’s mother has been missing for three months, leaving behind only a cryptic note. She’s gone underground in search of her former lover, Blue’s dad. Her ex–hit man boyfriend is the only person besides Blue who seems concerned. Meanwhile, the Raven Boys—Gansey, Adam and Ronan, with ghostly Noah now struggling to appear corporeal—and Blue find a mysterious cave guarded by an Appalachian mountain man; inside is indeed an ancient Welsh coffin. Despite Adam’s new understanding that there are three buried sleepers, two to wake, one to leave sleeping, they open the lid, and out pops Gwenllian, the perhaps-not-asleep but long-buried daughter of Glendower. Friend or foe? Oh, and the person who hired the hit man is the boys’ new Latin teacher. Stiefvater weaves these separate threads together with a sure hand until magic seems expected yet never commonplace, always shimmering under the surface. Most credible and moving are the slow maturations of her characters—Adam comes to measure his worth in something other than money; Blue secretly phones Gansey in the night. If she kisses her true love, he will die.

Expect this truly one-of-a-kind series to come to a thundering close. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-42496-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Breathtaking, tragic and true.

THE WINNER'S CURSE

From the Winner's Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Rich characterization, exquisite worldbuilding and rock-solid storytelling make this a fantasy of unusual intelligence and depth.

Brilliant and wealthy Lady Kestrel seems destined for either an illustrious military career or a magnificent marriage, but all she cares about is her music—a passion her Valorian culture disdains, almost as much as they despise the Herrani they have enslaved. After Kestrel pays an outrageous sum for the slave Arin, society has even more to gossip about, particularly when Kestrel betrays her growing attachment to him. But Arin harbors his own deadly secrets, and the price might cost Kestrel everything she holds dear. Precise details and elegant prose make this world fresh and vivid. The intricate and suspenseful plot, filled with politics, intrigue and even graphic violence, features neither heroes nor villains; every character displays a complex mixture of talents, flaws and motives. Kestrel is an especially compelling protagonist, both determined and hesitant, honest and manipulative, ferociously observant and painfully naïve. Her bond with Arin develops slowly and naturally from congruent personalities. As much as it informs their choices, neither can (nor wishes to) elevate an impossible romance over loyalty to friends, family or nation. This integrity keeps them apart right through the heartbreaking (yet necessary) conclusion—but also kindles a tiny spark of hope for the next volume in the trilogy.

Breathtaking, tragic and true. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-38467-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

A remarkable human story, told with clarity and confidence.

THE FAMILY ROMANOV

MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA

Fleming examines the family at the center of two of the early 20th century’s defining events.

It’s an astounding and complex story, and Fleming lays it neatly out for readers unfamiliar with the context. Czar Nicholas II was ill-prepared in experience and temperament to step into his legendary father’s footsteps. Nicholas’ beloved wife (and granddaughter of Queen Victoria), Alexandra, was socially insecure, becoming increasingly so as she gave birth to four daughters in a country that required a male heir. When Alexei was born with hemophilia, the desperate monarchs hid his condition and turned to the disruptive, self-proclaimed holy man Rasputin. Excerpts from contemporary accounts make it clear how years of oppression and deprivation made the population ripe for revolutionary fervor, while a costly war took its toll on a poorly trained and ill-equipped military. The secretive deaths and burials of the Romanovs fed rumors and speculation for decades until modern technology and new information solved the mysteries. Award-winning author Fleming crafts an exciting narrative from this complicated history and its intriguing personalities. It is full of rich details about the Romanovs, insights into figures such as Vladimir Lenin and firsthand accounts from ordinary Russians affected by the tumultuous events. A variety of photographs adds a solid visual dimension, while the meticulous research supports but never upstages the tale.

A remarkable human story, told with clarity and confidence. (bibliography, Web resources, source notes, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-375-86782-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

Powerfully evocative.

THE CARNIVAL AT BRAY

In 1993, 16 year-old Maggie and her family move from Chicago to small-town Ireland with the latest of her mother’s romantic partners.

Moving to Bray, Maggie leaves behind warm, practical Nanny Ei and beloved Uncle Kevin, a 26-year-old who plays in a band, sneaks her into grunge rock concerts and makes himself responsible for Maggie’s musical education. Arriving in Ireland, Maggie finds that she’s no better at fitting in with the girls of St. Brigid’s than she had been at her old school. Instead, she forms a loose web of connections with local figures: Dan Sean, a Bray legend at 99, whose home becomes a refuge for Maggie in times of family conflict; Aíne, the bookish classmate with whom Maggie reluctantly goes on double dates; and Eoin, the gentle boy with whom Maggie falls in love. The narrative subtly and carefully interweaves peer and family drama—much of it involving troubled Uncle Kevin—with the highs and lows of the grunge music scene, from the transformative glory of a Nirvana concert to the outpouring of grief around the death of Kurt Cobain. Every character, every place comes alive with crisp, precise detail: Maggie’s heartbroken mother “howling along in an off-key soprano” to Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Dan Sean welcoming Maggie with a Cossack’s hat and a hefty glass of port.

Powerfully evocative. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9895155-9-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Elephant Rock Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Funny, observant, a relentless critic of the world’s (and her own) flaws, Sky is original, thoroughly authentic and great...

GIRL DEFECTIVE

Skylark Martin lives above her family’s vintage vinyl shop that—like its merchandise—is an endangered species in their re-gentrified, forward-looking Melbourne suburb.

In the five years since Mum left to “follow her art” in Japan, Dad’s kept the shop going, drinking homebrew and mourning the past (musical and otherwise). Sky, 15, and Gully, 10, aka Agent Seagull Martin, who wears a pig-snout mask 24/7 and views the world as a crime scene waiting to be investigated, hold down the fort. Sky harbors no illusions about their dreary status quo—Dad’s drinking, Gully’s issues, her own social stasis—but she does have dreams, recently ignited by a new friend, the beautiful, wild and fearless Nancy. Other agents of change include Eve, Dad’s old flame, and Luke, the shop’s attractive, moody new hire. Drawn, mothlike, to Nancy’s flame, Sky’s dreams are haunted by Luke’s sister, whose similarly wild lifestyle led to tragedy. The family business grounds Sky. Its used records and cassettes, like time capsules, store music that evokes the past’s rich emotional complexity for the Martins and their quirky customers, while the eternal present and frantic quest for the next big thing hold no appeal. 

Funny, observant, a relentless critic of the world’s (and her own) flaws, Sky is original, thoroughly authentic and great company, decorating her astute, irreverent commentary with vivid Aussie references; chasing these down should provide foreign readers with hours of online fun. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9760-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

Utterly absorbing.

LOVE IS THE DRUG

Lost memories, a deadly pandemic flu and the children of D.C.’s elite come together in this sophisticated bio-thriller.

When Emily Bird wakes up in the hospital, the last thing she remembers is attending a party at a senator’s home eight days earlier. She’s told she had an accident after taking some bad designer drugs, but a threatening visit from a national security contractor whom Bird met at the party suggests the truth isn’t so simple. Meanwhile, the entire Beltway is under an oppressive and all-too-believable quarantine and curfew thanks to a virulent new strain of flu. Bird’s parents, two prominent black scientists, want her to avoid trouble after her misadventure, but she can’t resist investigating. She finds an unlikely ally in Coffee, a diplomat’s son who uses drugs and deals them to others but who also sees strength in Bird that she struggles to see in herself. Johnson, who astounded with her cyberpunk teen debut, The Summer Prince (2013), immerses readers in the complexities of Bird’s world, especially her fraught relationship with her parents and the intersections of race and class at her elite prep school. The often lyrical third-person, present-tense narration, the compelling romance and the richly developed cast of characters elevate this novel far above more formulaic suspense fare.

Utterly absorbing. (Suspense. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-41781-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Compelling reading for art lovers.

FRIDA & DIEGO

ART, LOVE, LIFE

The intertwined creative and personal lives of two trailblazing artists whose lifestyles were as avant-garde as their work.

The creative and personal lives of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were dramatically linked from the time they met. They initially bonded over Frida’s budding attempts at painting, but they soon fell in love. Frida’s life was complicated by injuries she carried from a serious streetcar accident that doctors had not expected her to survive. Diego was a complex man, devoted to his art and communist politics while unwilling to remain faithful to Frida. Their tumultuous relationship and her broken body were both important influences on Kahlo’s deeply personal work, while Rivera’s extensive murals and other works reflected his politics and love of the Mexican people. Reef offers a balanced and cleareyed examination of this powerful relationship, contextualizing it against the backdrop of national politics in Mexico and international change ushered in by the Great Depression and World War II. The account also cogently reveals how these shifts affected the artistic world as well. The clear narrative deftly handles complex political and artistic ideas and sheds light on how the couple’s unusual connection enhanced and occasionally detracted from their work. The many photographs and examples of the artists’ work neatly complement the text.

Compelling reading for art lovers.   (timeline, source notes, bibliography; index, not seen) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-82184-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

Readers will wish they had a jinni to grant them the next book in the series.

EXQUISITE CAPTIVE

From the Dark Caravan Cycle series , Vol. 1

Nalia lives in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, a glittering world of parties and fast cars. She can have anything she wants—except her freedom.

Nalia is “just another jinni on the dark caravan” of the slave trade, forced to spend her days granting wishes on behalf of her human master, Malek, in order to advance his wealth and power. Nalia was trafficked in a bottle from her home realm of Arjinna to Earth after a coup wiped out her entire caste. She is the only surviving Ghan Aisouri, a royal knight and the heir to the Arjinnan throne. Arjinna is now under the martial law of the ruthless Ifrit, the lowest and most despised caste, and all that matters to Nalia is returning home to rescue her 8-year-old brother from the brutal Ifrit work camps—but Nalia can only be free when Malek makes his third and final wish. Enter Raif, sexy leader of the revolution in Arjinna, who makes her an offer; Nalia must decide whether she’ll break her most sacred vow to save the person she loves most, but she’ll pay any price to be her own mistress. The story unfolds at a swift, even pace, and the worldbuilding is superb; the jinn inhabit an intoxicating, richly realized realm of magic, politics, spirituality and history.

Readers will wish they had a jinni to grant them the next book in the series. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-231856-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

A thoughtful exploration of identity and responsibility wrapped in a twisty, suspenseful mystery and set in a gorgeously...

DEATH SWORN

A teenage sorceress without magic attempts to solve a murder in a cave full of killers. What could possibly go wrong?

Deemed expendable due to her rapidly dwindling power, Ileni is sent to the Assassins’ Caves to teach magic—and secretly to investigate the sudden deaths of the previous tutors dispatched there. Resigned to her task (and likely murder), Ileni despises the assassins and all their works yet is also reluctantly drawn to the unexpected grace and even joy in their lives, as well as their selfless dedication to a greater purpose. Cypess has a talent for bringing freshness and depth to tired tropes; her lyrical prose and understated imagery evoke the claustrophobic caverns and the unbearable stress of ever-present danger. Ileni, with her complex blend of intelligence, arrogance, longing, despair and determination, is an exceptionally vibrant heroine. While her delicately passionate romance with her assassin bodyguard appears uncomfortably close to Stockholm syndrome, it also encapsulates the constant tension between popular perceptions of assassins as awesome and sexy superninjas and as callous, mercenary, bloodthirsty thugs. As her constricted surroundings paradoxically result in a more nuanced appreciation of the wider world, Ileni gradually learns the difference among those things worth killing for, worth dying for and worth living for.

A thoughtful exploration of identity and responsibility wrapped in a twisty, suspenseful mystery and set in a gorgeously realized fantasy world. (Fantasy/mystery. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-222121-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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