A heartfelt, intricate examination of what underlies human behavior.

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WHO KILLED CHRISTOPHER GOODMAN?

The day after a summer festival, two teenagers find the body of a schoolmate by the side of a road.

The fictional college town of Goldsburg is the setting for this compelling novel based on a true story from the author’s own hometown in Virginia. Goldsburg’s annual Deadwood Days weekend is what keeps the local kids from total boredom. The shocking events of the summer of 1979 are narrated by a cast of white teenagers (all with epithets) who had all seen Christopher the night before he was murdered: Doc “The Sleepwalker” Chestnut, Squib “The Genius” Kaplan, Hunger “The Good Ol’ Boy” McCoy, Hazel “The Farm Girl” Turner, and Mildred “The Stamp Collector” Penny. As a means to help the students work through their grief, they’ve been assigned to write memorial poems. The novel is cleverly constructed in their rotating prose and verse accounts starting four weeks after Deadwood Days and working backward. Set amid these narratives is the voice of the 15-year-old killer, Leonard “The Runaway” Pelf. The six teens have distinct personalities—Squib is pragmatic and cautious (and has Tourette’s syndrome), for instance, and Hunger dabbles in taxidermy—and perspectives. Some hardly knew one another before the summer; some have close friendships tested. All of them feel some responsibility for the circumstances that led to that night’s events. Within the confines of the assignment, they move nearly imperceptibly toward a greater understanding of themselves and each other.

A heartfelt, intricate examination of what underlies human behavior. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5613-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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