This riff on West Side Story is torrid and heartfelt if not at all subtle, with a sequel featuring Faith’s best friend still...

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BEFORE YOU

The daughter of a pastor and a young man on the run from a Cuban drug cartel get past their initial animosity to fall in love in this sexy romance.

Prickly, wary 18-year-old Diego is disgusted with the beautiful and collected young woman assigned to escort him through his first day of school, assuming she is a snob. Faith, also 18, finds Diego, with multiple scars and tattoos, annoyingly cocky yet attractive: “He is a boy with eyes like hope, with scars that tell stories….I don’t trust myself around him.” She has erected a carefully crafted facade to disguise her fear of abandonment and a secret year in rehab, while Diego’s past has left him ready to brutally fight when threatened. The pair tell their story in alternating, present-tense chapters. Their two families are well-drawn; Diego and his relatives speak in English with a sprinkling of Spanish, which contrasts with Faith’s Anglo background. The plot moves slowly for the first two-thirds of the novel, then presents a series of shocks. Hart’s writing in this debut conveys a lot of physical and emotional feeling but works a little too hard in places (“Under my fingertips her blood pulses fast, a one-way train on a track bound for collision”).

This riff on West Side Story is torrid and heartfelt if not at all subtle, with a sequel featuring Faith’s best friend still to come . (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61773-116-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kteen

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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