Manipulative and unpleasant.

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RED DIRT

Eighteen-year-old Sammy was born in Bittersweet, Oklahoma, and suspects she will die there. But while the red dirt of her home keeps her grounded, she wonders if there is more beyond the county line.

Sammy Lester’s life plan involves partying, hooking up, and spending time with Decca, her young half sister, but when her father mysteriously disappears, everything changes. Suspecting that the unpredictable Tuller family is to blame, the white teen seeks the help of local law enforcement. But the sheriff, fearing retribution, refuses to help. Sammy’s former stepmother takes advantage of the situation and presses to take Decca out of state. With nowhere to turn, Sammy decides to find her own justice. Only the appearance of the incredibly sexy, rich, white Brayton Foster offers any respite from her trouble. Nonstop action and an intriguing mystery will keep pages turning, but the portrayal of rural Oklahomans as drunk, violent, amoral, and foulmouthed is at best reductive and at worst simply offensive. Sammy is strong and loyal, but her reckless behavior, including unprotected sex, heavy drinking, and proclivity for random acts of self-destructiveness, makes her a less-than-ideal heroine. The onslaught of brutal violence, animal mutilation, and attempted rape shifts this narrative from story to shock fiction.

Manipulative and unpleasant. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-373-21251-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.

LEGENDBORN

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4160-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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