A swoonworthy romance that doesn’t really need the promised thrills.

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DANGEROUS LIES

After witnessing the aftermath of a murder, a girl assumes a false identity to hide from the drug cartel that wants her dead.

Estella Goodwinn comes home one night to find her drug-addicted mother passed out and one of her dealers shot dead. She implicates Danny Balando, a major player in a drug cartel, whom she sees fleeing the scene. She, her boyfriend, and her mother are swiftly placed into witness protection. Estella’s whisked away to Thunder Basin, Nebraska, a town that couldn’t possibly be farther away, culturally, from her home of Philadelphia. Now, she’s Stella Gordon, living with a retired cop as a foster child. The transition is painful; she can’t contact her boyfriend and is completely out of her element. Enter handsome country-boy Chet Falconer, and suddenly things are looking up. Stella initially rebels but quickly sees that Thunder Basin offers welcome stability. But the threats she left behind eventually manifest; a local baseball hero beloved by the community knows Stella’s hiding something, and it’s more than just her secret identity. Though the book is billed as a thriller, Stella’s time in Thunder Basin is actually all simmering summer love and coming into her own. Readers won’t mind—they’ll be too engrossed by Stella’s steady, although reluctant, fall into the arms of charming Chet.

A swoonworthy romance that doesn’t really need the promised thrills. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2491-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely.

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THE GRACE YEAR

A rebellious 16-year-old is sent to an isolated island for her grace year, when she must release her seductive, poisonous magic into the wild before taking her proper place as a wife and child bearer.

In gaslit Garner County, women and girls are said to harbor diabolical magic capable of manipulating men. Dreaming, among other things, is forbidden, and before girls embark on their grace year, they hope to receive a veil, which promises marriage. Otherwise, it’s life in a labor house—or worse. Strong, outdoorsy, skeptical Tierney James doesn’t want to be married, but a shocking twist leaves her with a veil—and a dangerous enemy in the vindictive Kiersten. Thirty-three girls with red ribbons symbolizing sin woven into their braids set out to survive the island, but it won’t be easy. Poachers, who trade in the body parts of grace-year girls, surround the camp, and paranoia, superstition, and mistrust rule. Not everyone will make it home alive. The bones of Liggett’s (The Unfortunates, 2018, etc.) tale of female repression are familiar ones, but her immersive storytelling effortlessly weaves horror elements with a harrowing and surprising survival story. Profound moments lie in small details, and readers’ hearts will race and break right along with the brave, capable Tierney’s. The biggest changes often begin with the smallest rebellions, and the emotional conclusion will resonate. All characters are assumed white.

Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely. (Dystopian. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14544-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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