An interesting setting and good use of historical details aren’t, in the end, enough to hold reader interest

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IN ANOTHER TIME

A teen lumbergirl finds wartime romance in the Scottish Highlands.

It’s 1942. Seventeen-year-old Margaret “Maisie” McCall sees joining in Great Britain’s war effort as an honorable excuse to leave her unhappy home, but since she’s too young for the armed services, she signs up for the Women’s Timber Corps and becomes a lumberjill. Two weeks into her training she meets a man named John Lindsay at a local dance—he’s physically attractive and initially seems kind, but he’s clumsy and storms off before their dance is complete. A month later, in her remote first post in the Scottish forest camp of Auchterblair, Speyside, she runs into John again—he’s a lumberjack nearby. Weeks into a somewhat awkward romance, Maisie discovers that John has a prosthetic leg, which he’s somehow managed to hide from most of his fellow corpsman despite sharing a dormitory with them. Their romance proceeds despite John’s basic unlikability. The story unfolds from Maisie’s point of view but is told more than shown; the characters feel emotionally inconsistent, and the flat story arc provides little suspense. In alignment with the time and location, it follows a white default.

An interesting setting and good use of historical details aren’t, in the end, enough to hold reader interest .(Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-245991-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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