While that’s disappointing, fans of romance and those looking to diversify their shelves may be willing to forgive its...

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THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED

From the Simonverse series , Vol. 2

Tired of crushing with no kisses, 17-year-old Molly decides to take a chance on love.

Molly has always felt inferior to her fraternal twin, Cassie: though both are white, Molly is brown-haired, brown-eyed, and fat in contrast to Cassie’s blonde slenderness. But Molly doesn’t hate her body—she’s just afraid other people do. The combination of these feelings of inadequacy with ordinary teen awkwardness is a recipe for uneasy interactions with boys. Molly’s 26 crushes have all been unrequited—but have they, really? When Cassie falls in love for the first time, and two eligible possibilities present themselves, Molly decides to risk rejection. Against the backdrop of the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. and the planning of her moms’ subsequent nuptials, Molly struggles between choosing the boy she actually likes and the one who seems ideal. Themes of body image, rejection, first love, and the evolution of familial relationships—particularly between sisters—loom large. Molly is the queen of teen angst, and her voice may grate on readers. The cast is wonderfully diverse (family, sexual orientation, religion/culture, race, size, mental health), which is why it’s so sad that, though well-drawn, the characters are hard to connect with.

While that’s disappointing, fans of romance and those looking to diversify their shelves may be willing to forgive its foibles. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-234870-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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