A compelling story about grief told through the voices of two expertly drawn protagonists.

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SINCE WE LAST SPOKE

It took 17 years for Aggi and Max to fall in love but just one night to lose each other.

Next-door neighbors in rural North Carolina, Aggi Frank and Maxwell Granger took years to admit that they were in love. Their romance felt like it could last forever—until Max’s brother, Cal, died in a car accident while Aggi’s sister, Kate, was driving. Kate’s role in the accident drove her to commit suicide just 10 days after Cal passed away. The double tragedy tore the Frank and Granger families apart, culminating in a restraining order that prevented Aggi and Max from talking, let alone dating. For a year, Aggi and Max followed the rules and avoided each other until the night their best friends, Umé and Henry, plotted to bring the two together to mend their broken hearts. Rufener’s (Where I Live, 2018) treatment of grief is nuanced and deeply felt, and Aggi’s and Max’s complex feelings about themselves, their families, and their aborted romance drive the skillfully crafted narrative. Unfortunately, Kate and Cal, whose deaths are the reason behind the book, are disappointingly two-dimensional, overly wise, almost magical older siblings rather than fully formed characters. Aggi, Max, and Henry are from working-class families, Umé is queer, and all main characters are white.

A compelling story about grief told through the voices of two expertly drawn protagonists. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-257108-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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