A quiet and memorable story of how paddling in the wilderness forces two unlikely friends to face their grief and embrace...

THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN

This poignant tale explores grief through a 15-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, both of whom have lost infant siblings. 

For 10 months after his newborn sister's death, Rakmen Cannon has grudgingly joined his mother at "dead baby club," his term for weekly bereavement support meetings in their Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. There, he recognizes his biology teacher, Leah Tatlas, and meets her preteen daughter, Jacey, who instantly grows attached to him. At the end of the school year, Leah invites Rakmen to join them on a summer trip to a remote lake cabin in Canada. Though he suspects it's a terrible idea, Rakmen reluctantly agrees to go, because his parents announce they need to work on their crumbling marriage. The dilapidated cabin leaves little exciting for Rakmen to do—and occasionally little for readers to follow, though it does provide the setting for quiet moments of introspection and friendship between sullen Rakmen and curious Jacey. The pace builds during a tense final act—an unexpectedly frightening canoe-camping trip the three of them undertake at Leah's insistence. A few plot twists seem unnecessarily harrowing, and the story's initial pace coupled with the unsettling subject matter of infant deaths may cause readers to occasionally stop and process. But Rakmen’s and Jacey's journeys to make peace with their sadness make the emotional ride worthwhile.

A quiet and memorable story of how paddling in the wilderness forces two unlikely friends to face their grief and embrace their power . (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7590-8

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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