Inflated histrionics that are about as appealing as the navel-gazing that punctuates them.

UNDER THE LIGHTS

From the Field Party series , Vol. 2

Major melodrama ensues when Willa returns to her childhood home after an absence of six years to live with her nonna, cook and housekeeper for the wealthy Lawtons, and reconnects with childhood friends.

Living in a small cottage on their estate, Willa spent her childhood here, inseparable with the second son, Gunner Lawton, and his best friend, Brady Higgens. Now seniors, the three revive their friendship in what appears to be a love triangle. Gunner’s distant relationship with his unloving parents and Willa’s abandonment by her own mother draws them close, as revealed in ponderously voiced first-person chapters that alternate among the three beautiful, white teens. While away, Willa did something she regrets that resulted in a short stint in a correctional center, and this secret flavors the beginning of what turns out to be a chain of revelations of dark secrets that surround the Lawtons. Though rife with swearing, including the liberal use of F-bombs, and references to sex, the actual events on the page are relatively tame. Furthermore, although explosive secrets that will prove powerful and damaging emerge, the way it all plays out is not particularly heart-wrenching. Willa is a good Southern girl who says “Yes, ma’am,” and all her actions are pure in motivation. Several plot threads dangle toward the end, but those who like soap operas won’t notice or care.

Inflated histrionics that are about as appealing as the navel-gazing that punctuates them. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3889-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Will appeal to fans of fast-moving fantasy adventures.

CAST IN FIRELIGHT

From the Wickery series , Vol. 1

Pledged to each other since childhood, Adraa and Jatin navigate the complex politics of their respective kingdoms.

Adraa is the heir to Belwar, and while powerful in most types of magic, she has yet to take the royal ceremony to prove her competency in all nine forms and, with it, her right to someday rule. With half its population Untouched by the Gods—unable to use magic—Belwar struggles with inequities between the Touched and Untouched, reminiscent of societal class divisions. Adraa’s strong sense of duty to her people leads her to fight against the corruption within her kingdom. Jatin, heir to their more magical neighbor Naupure, has spent years polishing his nine colors of magic at the academy, away from the realities of ruling. He and Adraa compare their magical prowess and progress through letters. When Jatin finally leaves the academy, a series of mishaps results in both of them hiding their true identities even as they grow closer in their fight against a ruthless gang. This intricate world with magic-fueled, action-packed fight scenes and snarky, colloquial banter is loosely infused with Asian Indian cultural references. The story also discusses questions of gender inequality, freedom, self-worth, and identity. Adraa and Jatin both have black hair; in contrast to the cover image, the text makes clear that Adraa is very dark-skinned while Jatin has lighter brown skin.

Will appeal to fans of fast-moving fantasy adventures. (deities and their powers, author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12421-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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