A satisfying if predictable crowd pleaser.

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LOVE, LUCY

A European summer flirtation blossoms into something more in this romance set in Italy and Pennsylvania.

While on a high school graduation trip to Florence, aspiring actress Lucy meets Jesse, a wandering minstrel of a boy originally from New Jersey who busks for room and board. During the last days of her vacation, they share a hotel room, and tensions arise when Lucy chooses to spend time with Jesse over her traveling companion, Charlene. When it’s time for Lucy to go home, she and Jesse reluctantly part, and Lucy is convinced she will never see Jesse again. Fast-forward to her freshman year at a Philadelphia college. Lucy lands a lead role in Rent, even though her controlling father has forbidden her to keep acting. She has a gorgeous new boyfriend named Shane but can’t stop thinking about Jesse. When Jesse shows up unexpectedly on campus, Lucy must decide between rebelling against her father and following her dreams with Jesse or sticking with her business major and playing it safe with Shane. This novel is ideal fodder for romance traditionalists, checking off every genre trope with the regularity of a metronome in solid if unremarkable prose. And Lindner does a good job of describing how uncomfortable travel can become when friends no longer get along. But readers looking for a more juicily written romance travelogue that teases and surprises at every turn may prefer Gayle Forman’s Just One Day (2013) and Just One Year (2013).

A satisfying if predictable crowd pleaser. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-40069-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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