A sweet story with a focus on family and friendships.

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BY THE BOOK

Bookish 15-year-old Mary Porter-Malcolm comes into her own in this lighthearted tale.

Both her parents are professors, so it’s no surprise that Mary spends most of her time immersed in 19th-century literature. After her small alternative school closes, Mary’s forced to transfer to public school at the beginning of her sophomore year—where she is left all alone after her old friend Anjuli promptly ditches her. Overhearing three popular girls’ conversation about Alex Ritter, a handsome senior boy she’s familiar with from a theater production, Mary warns them of his dangerous charms. They welcome her advice and in exchange offer to help her embark upon a genuine high school experience (or, as Mary thinks of it, her debutante season). They try to set her up with various guys, all clearly wrong for her; meanwhile, Alex keeps popping up to banter with her. Mary’s diary entries pepper the narrative and provide some tongue-in-cheek humor. Debut author Sellet delightfully portrays Mary’s large, chaotic family—her twin sisters’ Shakespeare troupe; her stoic, athletic sister; and her annoying younger brother. Occasionally clunky writing and Mary’s habit of constantly cramming in references to classic literature—from Wuthering Heights to Anna Karenina—may alienate contemporary bookworms. Mary and Alex are white, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A sweet story with a focus on family and friendships. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-15661-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the...

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE

From the Legacy of Orisha series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Children of Blood and Bone (2018), Zélie and company are back, and the future of Orïsha hangs in the balance.

Zélie, now a maji Reaper, has achieved her goal and brought magic back to Orïsha, but at great cost. Grief and loss are strong themes throughout the book, compounded by guilt for Zélie, who feels responsible for her father’s death. Zélie and her older brother, Tzain, try to help Princess Amari ascend the throne, believing her family dead—but Queen Nehanda, Amari’s mother, is very much alive and more formidable than they could imagine. The trio join the Iyika, a band of rebel maji working to protect their persecuted people from threats new and old. Though the characters’ trauma reads as real and understandable, their decisions don’t always feel sensible or logical, often stemming from a lack of communication or forethought, which may leave readers frustrated. Though still commendable for its detailed worldbuilding, with an ending compelling enough to keep fans interested in the next installment, much of the book feels like navigating minefields of characters’ ill-advised decisions. All characters are black except for a secondary character with silky black hair, tan skin, and gray eyes “like teardrops.”

Second installments in trilogies sometimes slump—here’s hoping the third book is a return to the vibrancy of the first. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17099-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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