An exceptional tale of grief, ambition, love, and maturity.


A Mexican teen does his best to escape his troubles in the United States.

Carlos Portillo has lived a comfortable life in Mexico City, content to follow the path laid out for him by his parents and to pursue his passion for cooking as a hobby. When Carlos’ older, vagabond brother, Felix, is tragically killed, Carlos flees his family and preplanned life for Washington’s San Juan Islands, where he settles in to a job washing dishes at a restaurant he and his brother worshipped from afar. Before long, Carlos begins training with legendary Chef Elise St Croix and strikes up a romance with the chef’s daughter, Emma, a white girl. As Carlos works through his grief and rediscovers his initiative, the author weaves a sweet love story on the side, but the novel’s primary focus is the balance a passionate person must strike between family and art. Carlos is an intriguing protagonist, observing his brother’s ghost and hearing his voice often but never succumbing to full-blown paranoia or madness. His affection for Emma is endearing, but his character truly sings in the kitchen. The kitchen scenes crackle with energy, painting vivid pictures of delicious food that will make readers’ mouths water. The multiethnic kitchen staff sparkle as well, bouncing off one another with genuine rapport that lends authenticity to the narrative—as does Carlos’ frank address of the myriad microaggressions he experiences.

An exceptional tale of grief, ambition, love, and maturity. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-373-21228-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes


From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.


A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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