An uneven mystery with intriguing explorations into the myriad effects of trauma.

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THE GIRL IN THE WHITE VAN

A kung fu student combats a kidnapper.

Savannah Taylor has gotten used to relocating every time her mom falls for a different man. Now in Portland, Oregon, she struggles to live with Tim, her mom’s controlling boyfriend, while pursuing her newfound passion: In kung fu class she uncovers newfound strength, finding a sanctuary from her chaotic home life. Though she’s resolved not to make friends, she’s drawn to Daniel Diaz, a green belt who shares her interest in Bruce Lee. Meanwhile, rumors swirl at school about a driver who is following girls in battered, unmarked cars. Even worse, a girl one town over vanished last year. Leaving kung fu one night, Savannah is attacked, waking up in the back of an old white van with her wrists duct taped. Her kidnapper is a man who goes by Sir. With the help of an unexpected ally and Bruce Lee’s words of wisdom, Savannah must summon the strength to outwit Sir if she wants to make it out alive. The narrative, told through multiple first-person perspectives, offers insight into trauma’s ripple effects. While this is interesting, and the pacing is strong, insufficient time is spent on character development, detracting from the immediacy of Savannah’s situation. The ease with which the mystery is solved further dampens the tension. Daniel is cued as Latinx; other major characters are presumed white.

An uneven mystery with intriguing explorations into the myriad effects of trauma. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15759-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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