Filled with fervor but more told than shown and diluted by repetition.


A demigod pines for romance but finds herself responsible for deaths and chaos.

Asra lives alone on a mountain, providing villagers with magic-infused herbal remedies. If she mingles with mortals, they’ll learn she’s a bloodscribe: words written with her blood can change the past or future. Desperate to keep her (secret) mortal lover, Ina, from marrying a boy, Asra uses her bloodscribe power, accidentally (and inevitably) triggering deadly events. Whether she necessarily caused as many deaths as she thinks, she’s consumed by guilt: if she finds Ina, who’s become a vengeful dragon and departed, Asra can rewrite the past. Romantic love is Asra’s primary focus—after Ina, a boy named Hal, also a demigod. Questions of faith also run through the book, both in the form of Asra’s curiosity over which god is her parent and a challenge to the king, which threatens the land’s life-support. Given that Asra’s blood causes magic on contact, readers may wonder whether she menstruates (gods do have children). Dramatic chapter-ending cliffhangers invigorate momentum; ongoing, unnecessary reiteration slows it. Bisexuality in both protagonist and villain is refreshing, though the concluding text explicitly undermines Asra and Ina’s relationship in hindsight. Asra and Ina are white; Hal is dark brown. For richer treatment of bisexuality, passion, and blood power, look to Sarah Fine’s The True Queen (2018).

Filled with fervor but more told than shown and diluted by repetition. (Romance/fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243328-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.


A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.


Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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