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HELLO (FROM HERE)

A gentle romance set against a bummer of a backdrop.

Two teens get romantic in March 2020.

Maxine and Jonah first meet bumping into each other in the grocery store just as the world is starting to come to an end. It’s early 2020, and California’s going into lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19. Jonah’s been an anxious mess even before the deadly virus hit American shores, and Maxine (or as she prefers, Max) has been barely hanging on with a part-time gig buying other people’s groceries. The pair strike up some witty repartee over toilet paper that tips into full-on flirtation, eventually pushing them into the unlucky task of starting a relationship just as everyone’s trying to keep away from one another. As the two teens Zoom and text their way through the pandemic, class differences, mental health issues, and good old-fashioned melodrama rear their heads. The romance is sweet, and the novelty of the pandemic’s early days is effectively rendered, but readers’ mileage may vary when it comes to reliving the anxious second quarter of 2020. The authors never push the virus element too hard, smartly centering Max and Jonah’s relationship as a fairly typical getting-to-know-you courtship with a handful more speed bumps. The end result is a quiet exploration of two teens going through some heady times, the sort of read that will be appreciated, if not now, then in a year or two. Max and Jonah are presumed White.

A gentle romance set against a bummer of a backdrop. (content notes) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32612-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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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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