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DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER

From the Darius the Great series , Vol. 2

A sequel that gets better and better the longer it steeps.

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A second chapter for the endearingly sweet, Star Trek­–loving “Fractional Persian” Darius Kellner.

Visiting Iran. Scoring the internship of his dreams at Rose City Teas. Playing on his high school’s varsity men’s soccer team—where his awesome teammates keep the bullies at bay. Having a lot of fun kissing Landon, a prospective first boyfriend with “television cheekbones.” But even all these highs can’t keep Darius’ depression at bay. Landon might be cute—and Darius’ Persian mother certainly approves of Landon’s cooking abilities—but he keeps pressuring Darius to go beyond kissing when he isn’t ready. Darius also worries about his terminally ill grandfather and best friend, Sohrab, both “half a world away” in Iran. Family troubles and confusing feelings for a teammate only exacerbate the “burning plasma reactor feeling” in Darius’ chest. With rich characters and multilayered storytelling, Khorram’s sophomore effort deepens the complexity of Darius’ world. Blending broad themes like consent and toxic masculinity with the specificity of Darius’ intersectional identity (gay, White and Iranian), this coming-of-age masterpiece packs a multitude of truth and heart. As “super white” as the Portland, Oregon, setting may be, Khorram takes care to incorporate the diversity that does exist within the city. While the first volume focused heavily on Darius’ relationship with his dad, this one expands the focus, balancing tough situations with a hopeful undercurrent.

A sequel that gets better and better the longer it steeps. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10823-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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