Memorable.

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SALVAGE

Haunting, colorful environments distinguish this debut novel about a girl fighting for survival in the far future.

Ava lives on the Parastrata. She knows nothing beyond her polygamous, fundamentalist religion, whose followers began living in spaceships some 1,000 years ago and which holds women as property since they harbor an interest in Earth “like a soft, rotten spot in [their] souls.” Informed that she’s marrying a man on another ship, Ava’s thrilled to see Luck, a boy she met years ago, in the greeting party. They know they should wait until after their wedding, but they sneak into a desalination pool and succumb to sex the night before—and get caught. To their shock (though not readers’), Ava was actually promised to Luck’s father. The Parastrata women wash Ava and lock her in a chilled room to await her punishment: Being pushed out into open space, which is, of course, fatal. A difficult, terrifying escape and a relative’s sacrifice provide another chance, but where can she go? From the strained peculiarity of the Parastrata to a sunbaked community afloat on the Pacific Ocean to the bustle of Mumbai, Duncan’s settings and diction are vivid. As brown-skinned people become Ava’s chosen family, she learns that her own medium-dark skin—mocked aboard the Parastrata—isn’t a religious stain, marking this a welcome browning of the science-fiction universe. Ava’s decisions sometimes serve plot more than characterization, but readers caught up in the story will forgive this.

Memorable. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-222014-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment.

LADY SMOKE

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 2

A rebel queen fans the sparks of revolution.

Picking up immediately after the events of Ash Princess (2018), Sebastian’s expansive sequel finds young Queen Theodosia—her title newly reclaimed—fleeing her country and throne. With her people still enslaved, Theo will need allies and an army to free them, and her aunt, the fierce and manipulative pirate Dragonsbane, insists that the only way to acquire either is if Theo marries—something no queen has ever done in Astrea’s history. Wracked by nightmares, guilt, and fear that she is losing herself (and more), Theo balks but, with few options open to her, grudgingly agrees to meet with suitors at a grand invitational hosted by the king of the opulent Sta’Crivero. Readers looking for further immersion and expansion of Theo’s world will not be disappointed here. The narrative suffers marginally from lengthy details picked up and soon put back down with no real service to plot or character development, but Theo’s first-person narration remains enthralling with emotional immediacy as she learns more and more about her world and the people (and cruelty) within it. Vengeance, political corruption, and mystery are the main drivers, and questions of trauma, empathy, and sacrifice hold the reigns as Theo grapples with emergent magic, inconvenient romances, and the crushing weight of her choices as a leader.

Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment. (maps) (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6710-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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