A thinly drawn summer romance saved by its protagonist’s self-actualization.

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26 KISSES

When her longtime boyfriend suddenly dumps her, a girl embarks on a mission to get over him by kissing 26 boys.

Before even removing his cap and gown, Mark breaks up with Veda to be free from romantic entanglements in college. Veda is devastated, and it’s painfully clear to her best friends, Seth and Mel. Before Veda can waste her summer crying in bed, Mel formulates a plan to help her move on: Veda will kiss 26 boys, one for each letter of the alphabet. At first, Veda’s shocked, but soon she warms to the idea. It’s not long before she’s found a string of boys with names to fill her list. Along the way, however, she gets to know Killian, a boy who shares the same summer job and a penchant for George Bernard Shaw. He’s nothing like Mark, and his warmth and enthusiasm bring her back to life. As Veda’s feelings for Killian grow, so does her resolve to finish the challenge. She’s going to kiss the alphabet no matter how charming Killian is, no matter how it affects her reputation. Thwarted by a fluffy premise with too many boys with odd names, Veda’s story reads as contrived, stocked with a bland cast of characters with no notable diversity. But she eventually finds her footing and runs toward the person she needs to learn to love the most: herself.

A thinly drawn summer romance saved by its protagonist’s self-actualization. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5246-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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