Superior scaffolding, didactic execution.

FALLING INTO PLACE

A teen tries to commit suicide by crashing her car in this debut from an adolescent author.

High school junior Liz Emerson hovers between life and death in the hospital after purposefully running her car off the road, while friends, teachers and curious classmates gather to stand watch and hope for the best. Strategically timed flashbacks to weeks, days and minutes before the crash, some voiced by Liz’s platitude-spouting childhood imaginary friend, reveal a wealthy, popular girl tortured by regret over her cruel actions against others. Her father died when she was young, and her widowed mother ignores Liz in favor of her globe-trotting job, but Liz knows that’s no excuse for getting a friend hooked on drugs, urging another friend to have an abortion and making a mean viral video of a boy who has a crush on her. “Some nights, Liz looked back and counted the bodies, all the lives she had ruined simply by existing. So she chose to stop existing.” Will Liz pull through? Depending on whether they identify with Liz or her victims, readers may be split about the novel’s abrupt ending. Even though the text is peppered with clichés, the inventive structure and inspired use of the imaginary-friend narrator help overcome the earnest, immature prose and heavy-handed messages.

Superior scaffolding, didactic execution. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-229504-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure

CITY OF LOST SOULS

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 5

What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift.

Clary's long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace's foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can't carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary's continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the "million little paper cuts" of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips ("all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking").

Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure . (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1686-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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