This winsome debut novel goes down like a vegan, gluten-free cupcake: sweet and good for you but entirely lacking in...

HEART OF THORNS

From the Heart of Thorns series , Vol. 1

A high-fantasy adventure with a spiritedly feminist point of view.

Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose unsuccessfully plots an escape from her arranged royal wedding, craving the freedom to hunt down her mother’s murderer (Wynna was killed by a hateful Gwyrach, a half-god, half-human female demon who “could manipulate flesh, bone, breath, and blood”). Instead she ends up on the run with her betrothed, the now lethally injured Prince Quin. The desperate scrabble across dangerous terrain is well-written, but while Barton’s feminist perspective is refreshing, it makes for some awkward romantic exchanges. In one non-ironic scene, Mia’s love interest observes, “You’re beautiful when you lie,” and recovers with, “Not to diminish you or suggest that beauty is an indicator of your worth.” A male character’s bisexuality is handled well, however. The elaborate worldbuilding evinces a traditional patriarchal feudalism; women are feared for their potential magic, and a utopian village is inhabited only by women, children, and men determined to be safe. Most tellingly, the Gwyrach can “unblood” a man—deflate an engorged phallus—which comes in handy in a would-be rape scene. This is a diverting tale, but the sisterhood is distracting rather than uplifting, and the denouement is easily guessed. Mia and Quin are white.

This winsome debut novel goes down like a vegan, gluten-free cupcake: sweet and good for you but entirely lacking in satisfying decadence. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-244768-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

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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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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