Teen girls who have experienced similar friendships will find this resonates; other readers probably won’t.

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In Max and Sadie’s friendship, wild Sadie is the one who has all the fun, while responsible Max deals with the consequences.

Max has never questioned that dynamic, but she begins to see how one-sided their relationship is the summer before senior year, when they stay with Sadie’s divorced hippie mom on an organic farm in Nebraska. Compared to Sadie, Max finds the other commune members kind and undemanding, and the mindless farm work is preferable to Sadie’s manufactured drama. Max’s burgeoning flirtation with bad-boy Dylan drives them even further apart. But their bond finally breaks the night a tornado leaves Max’s life hanging in the balance with no Sadie in sight. Author Reed effectively portrays the end of an obsessive adolescent relationship through Max’s precocious voice, which initially addresses itself directly to Sadie. As the story progresses, Max refers to Sadie by name instead of “you,” demonstrating their growing distance: “Sadie, maybe this story isn’t about you anymore.” Less well-developed are the secondary characters that never rise above stereotype and neglected subplots involving both girls’ parents and Max’s bisexuality. The strained retellings of Greek myths inserted between each chapter that seem intended to deepen Max’s character and to further illustrate the girls’ troubled relationship only serve to interrupt Max’s more compelling first-person narration.

Teen girls who have experienced similar friendships will find this resonates; other readers probably won’t. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5696-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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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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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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