A soap-operatic blend of Romeo and Juliet and My Friend Flicka. Yikes.

DARK HORSES

A troubled teen finds her temporary soul mate in a troubled horse.

At Red's only race, the 3-year-old thoroughbred jumps the track rails and causes a terrific accident. Mr. de Rothschild, a wealthy white man (everyone seems to be white in this book except Luis, a Latino groom), buys him for his troubled 18-year-old daughter, Beatrice, but when, unsurprisingly, she can't handle him, he donates the horse to a therapeutic equine center he has founded. Merritt, 17, arrives there after going on the lam from her private Manhattan school's SAT. Although the patients don't actually ride the horses, Merritt rides Red, and the two form an immediate, unrealistic bond. Without any training the young horse and occasional pleasure rider are suddenly capable of tackling a course of fences. De Rothschild sees dollar signs and shoves the pair into the high-end show circuit, with Beatrice along as groom. Merritt flirts with Beatrice but falls for a dishy boy rider; Red becomes jealous; trouble ensues. The narration alternates in chapters between Merritt and Red, who comes off as an equine version of an abusive boyfriend. Von Ziegesar, known for her Gossip Girls series, nails teen dialogue and horse-show society, but her side characters are all cardboard cutouts, and her plot is a hopeless, melodramatic morass; the horse-as-thwarted-lover aspect feels icky in the extreme.

A soap-operatic blend of Romeo and Juliet and My Friend Flicka. Yikes. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61695-517-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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May well beguile readers with its mix of magic and political intrigue.

SHIELDED

From the Shielded series , Vol. 1

A princess fights to save her kingdom while trying to conceal her magic.

On the eve of her 17th birthday, Princess Jennesara learns of her betrothal to the prince of Turia, an alliance made by her father to secure the neighboring kingdom’s military support in quelling the fighting at his borders. Before she is sent away to safety in Turia, she learns of other worrying developments brewing at home: A burned letter references a search for the mages’ library, illicit magic is being used in skirmishes at the borders, and there is a potential betrayal within her father’s circle of trust. She frets, too, about her own secret magic being discovered, for only her older brother, Ren, is supposed to possess magic. On their way to Turia, Jenna’s party is ambushed and she narrowly escapes. She is forced to fend for herself and find her own way to Turia to discover who betrayed her family and what secrets lie in the rumored mages’ library. Jenna conceals her identity and ingratiates herself with her betrothed’s family as she eludes the threat of a shadowy, sinister foe. Though overflowing with common fantasy tropes and featuring lengthy expository passages, this series opener nevertheless features affable characters and moves at a solid clip that will keep readers entertained. Jenna’s people are fair-haired while Turians are olive-skinned with dark hair.

May well beguile readers with its mix of magic and political intrigue. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11853-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging and draining debut.

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS

Two teenagers suffer through their first heartbreak.

Henry Page has spent his high school years with his nose to the grindstone, avoiding romantic relationships and focusing on becoming the editor of the school paper. At the start of his senior year Henry is offered the job, but there’s a catch: transfer student Grace Town is offered the gig as well, making the two white teens co-editors. Sparks fly as Henry works with the aloof, unkempt new girl, who walks with a cane. As Henry and Grace grow closer, Henry falls deeper for her even as he learns just how broken she is. In her debut, Sutherland mixes her love story with equal parts hope and ominous dread. There is never any doubt that this couple is marching toward romantic oblivion, but it’s an effectively drawn journey. The characters speak with a John Green–esque voice, but they are never overbearingly precocious. Narrator Henry’s a smartly rendered character, a decent kid who has goals and works hard to achieve them. His new goal is Grace’s affection, and the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object that is Grace’s emotional unavailability provides the novel some of its sharpest moments. When the walls tumble down, the connection between the two is clearly an unhealthy one, and the author pulls no punches, devastating Henry, Grace, and readers in equal measure.

An emotionally engaging and draining debut. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-54656-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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