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FLOWERHEART

A gentle love story and a fantasy that faces the dark voices of anxiety and depression with mettle.

Sixteen-year-old Clara Lucas makes an unbearable bargain to control her wild magic so she can save Papa from her accidental curse.

All Clara and childhood best friend Xavier Morwyn ever wanted was to be healers like his parents. But while Xavier was certified as a wizard a year earlier than is usual, Clara was left behind. Her magic is wild and unpredictable, always taunting her and playing on her worst fears of failure. When the Council of Magicians declares Clara’s magic must either be neutralized or bound, making spellcasting painful, Clara chooses the latter—until the results poison Papa. Only she can counter her accidental curse with a healing blessing, but she must first have full control of her magic. She begs Xavier to teach her how; he agrees but on one condition: Once Papa is healed, Clara must give Xavier her magic. A slow-burn romance and a soft, sweet fantasy unfold. The portrayal of anxiety as Clara’s magic is not subtle, but many readers familiar with mental health struggles will recognize the voice that taunts and haunts Clara. At the same time, she overcomes her challenges more quickly than can be expected in real life; a subplot around a potion to cure melancholy includes subtle messaging that is ultimately more supportive of medical intervention than it may at first appear. Main characters are cued White.

A gentle love story and a fantasy that faces the dark voices of anxiety and depression with mettle. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-321459-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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