Come for the rivalry, stay for the romance.

I KISSED ALICE

Two art students collaborate anonymously on a queer fan comic while clashing in real life over a prestigious scholarship.

To high school senior Iliana Vrionides, the Capstone Foundation Award represents opportunities that her affluent and well-connected peers at the Alabama Conservatory of the Arts and Technology take for granted. Iliana’s determination to win the award is intensified by her desire to beat her classmate and nemesis Rhodes Ingram who, in Iliana’s eyes, exemplifies the highbrow snobbery that art competition juries favor. Iliana often vents her frustration to I-Kissed-Alice, a friend she met on fandom database Slash/Spot and with whom Iliana co-authors “Hearts and Spades,” an Alice in Wonderland fan comic. Little does she know that I-Kissed-Alice is actually Rhodes, whose struggle with depression and familial pressure to succeed has rendered her unable to create artwork for school. As the deadline for the Capstone project proposal draws near, the animosity between Iliana and Rhodes comes to a peak even as they make plans online to meet in person. With a premise based on the "secret identity" trope, this novel could have fallen into cliché. Instead, it digs into the messiness of relationships colored by personal bias and misunderstanding. The protagonists are alive with emotions and flaws, and their chemistry as both enemies and allies crackles off the pages. Iliana is white, bisexual, and fat; Rhodes is white and queer.

Come for the rivalry, stay for the romance. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21985-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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What should feel epic and romantic winds up dull and uninspired.

A THOUSAND HEARTBEATS

Star-crossed lovers are on opposing sides of an impending war.

Annika, the princess of Kadier, believes in the love of fairy tales but knows it’s not in her future since her father demanded she marry to secure a political alliance. Not too far from their kingdom, there is a growing army of those who believe Kadier rightfully belonged to their ancestors, and they plan to reclaim it. When stoic, hardened soldier Lennox is given the opportunity to prove himself, he makes a plan to sneak into the kingdom. Neither Annika nor Lennox is prepared for the ways their lives and those of everyone around them will forever be changed upon their meeting. They start as enemies, but their hearts have other ideas, and soon their love is impossible to ignore. This stand-alone fantasy romance shifts between the two protagonists’ points of view, giving readers access to the interior lives of both. Patience is required, as the tale is slow to start; it finds its footing eventually, but readers may find it to be too little, too late. Much of the narrative feels bloated with story yet hollow in characterization and emotional depth. Even moments meant to evoke big emotions, like important deaths or grand romantic gestures, wind up falling flat since there’s not enough substance to give them weight. Characters are assumed White.

What should feel epic and romantic winds up dull and uninspired. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-266578-2

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A powerful tale of found family and first love.

SOME MISTAKES WERE MADE

After a year away, Ellis returns home to confront her past.

Graduating from high school far from everything familiar was not part of Ellis Truman’s original plans, but she nevertheless ended up spending her senior year with her aunt in California. In Indiana, Ellis practically grew up with the Albrey family and their three tightknit sons, Dixon, Tucker, and Easton. Now, Tucker wants her to return home for matriarch Sandry Albrey’s 50th birthday celebration on the Fourth of July—but Ellis is dreading seeing Easton, as they haven’t talked since she left. Chapters alternate between past and present, and much of the story unravels slowly: How did she come to live with the Albreys? What caused Ellis to then end up in San Diego? What happened in her relationship with Easton? Patient readers will find the heartfelt tension pays off. With her father in and out of jail and an absent mother, socio-economic differences separating Ellis from the middle-class Albreys don’t go unnoticed, and Ellis’ down-to-earth journey shows how she unpacks her feelings about her relationship with her parents. The slow-build romance is swoonworthy, and young adult fans of Colleen Hoover seeking emotional devastation and unforgettable characters will find much to enjoy here. Characters read as White.

A powerful tale of found family and first love. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308853-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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