Will grip readers and provoke empathy

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THE GRIEF KEEPER

A Salvadoran teen joins a grief transference experiment in exchange for asylum for herself and her family.

Fearing their asylum request will be denied and they’ll be deported back to a life threatened by gang violence, 17-year-old Marisol Morales escapes with her 12-year-old sister, Gabi, from an immigration detention center. The sisters attempt to trek to New York in search of Mrs. Rosen, an American woman their mother used to work for back in El Salvador. When discovered by Indranie Patel, an Indian immigrant working for the government, Marisol agrees to join a trial that will guarantee her and her family approval for their asylum applications. The catch? She must become a “grief keeper” for people with PTSD. Her first task is to convince Rey, the white girl for whom she’s supposed to be a grief keeper (and who offers her a second chance at love), to wear the grief-transmitting cuff. Flashbacks provide snippets of the sisters’ lives in El Salvador and the anti–LGBTQ environment they escaped and slowly chip away at the true reason for their flight. In her debut, Villasante captures the pressures of internalized racism in immigrants, for example, as Marisol worries people believe her to be stupid because she doesn’t have perfect command of English. However, shifting the focus from loss and the complexities of immigration to the romantic relationship risks implying that relationships can remove grief.

Will grip readers and provoke empathy . (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51402-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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