Packed with overexplained life lessons, this book is an earnest attempt to do too much.


In Jahn’s (Beyond the Sanctified, 2017, etc.) latest, a teenage farm girl’s move to the East Coast teaches her about friendship, diversity, love, and herself.

Tess is deeply attached to her Iowa life, particularly her best friend, Zander, the family farm, and their cows. Finances force a difficult decision to sell the farm; her dad is re-enlisting in the Army to help in Syria. Tess is anxious about moving to North Carolina and starting over socially; even in her small Iowa school, she’s found it difficult to connect with people. The sheer size of her new high school is overwhelming, but Leonetta, a black girl assigned to help Tess (who is white) find her way around, quickly befriends her. Their bond grows to include Summer, who is white, and Alice, who is black. Being part of a group of supportive, caring friends is a new and wonderful experience for Tess. Tess is shocked and dismayed to witness the injustices her black friends face on a regular basis, and there are moments when she makes insensitive and uninformed remarks. These potentially impactful scenes—it seems Tess experiences a revelation every day—are ruined by explicit analysis, melodrama, lack of tension, or predictability. As the characters lack depth, major plot revelations fall flat as well.

Packed with overexplained life lessons, this book is an earnest attempt to do too much. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61153-264-7

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Light Messages

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Several yards short of a touchdown.


A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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