BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

YOUR FAULT

From the Culpable series , Vol. 2

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning.

A romantically entangled stepbrother and stepsister in Los Angeles navigate their tumultuous history and take their relationship to new levels in this translated title by an Argentinian author.

Nick and Noah are madly in love: Their mutual attraction is established as the book opens with Noah’s 18th birthday party, during which she and Nick have an explicitly described sexual encounter behind the pool house. This fiery scene sets the stage for twists and turns in the lovers’ journey, including a separation when Noah is forced to go on a monthlong mother-daughter European tour. But reminders of their pasts (chronicled in the 2023 series opener, My Fault) threaten to undermine their stability. Nick’s wealthy estranged mother makes an unfortunate appearance, while Noah is haunted by the trauma of her father’s violent death. The blend of everyday complications (jealousy, parental disapproval) with frothy visions of high-society life is at once lacking in subtlety and intimately irresistible. The series initially gained popularity on Wattpad, and the novel follows the episodic structure typical of works on that site; sensual encounters occur at reliable intervals. Still, the characters and their milieu feel formulaic, and the writing is stilted. The differences between the two—Nick is five years older and has an office job; Noah has just finished high school—makes their suffocatingly possessive relationship feel particularly squirm-worthy. Nick and Noah and their families read white.

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning. (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781728290768

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

THE STARS WE STEAL

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Close Quickview