A standard novel about being true to who you are.

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STRANGER THAN FANFICTION

A young, white television star breaks away from Hollywood to go on a cross-country road trip with four of his biggest fans.

Cash Carter, with his good looks and celebrity status as the lead on the wildly successful television show Wiz Kids, seems to have it all. The only problem is that he is miserable. Tired of feeling that he has no control over his life, he answers a fan letter inviting him to accompany four friends on their pre-college road trip from Illinois to California. While Colfer has some good insights into the realities of dealing with fame, this latest novel is a paint-by-numbers coming-of-age story with cringeworthy dialogue and a cast of stock characters whose racial and sexual diversity feels forced and provides little three-dimensionality. Every character-stereotype box is checked, from the mixed-race closeted preacher’s son to the Japanese-American girl whose father barely understands English and is intent on pushing her into Stanford. The author clearly understands the downside of becoming a young TV sensation but struggles to translate that experience to Cash’s character in a way that generates empathy. The supporting characters have their own struggles but are off on their road trip before those can resonate with readers. The novel’s best scene is when Cash helps the closeted character accept himself.

A standard novel about being true to who you are. (Fiction. 15-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-38344-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Best leave it at maybe so.

YES NO MAYBE SO

Two 17-year-olds from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, work together on a campaign for a progressive state senate candidate in an unlikely love story.

Co-authors Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat, 2018, etc.) and Saeed (Bilal Cooks Daal, 2019, etc.) present Jamie Goldberg, a white Ashkenazi Jewish boy who suffers from being “painfully bad at anything girl-related,” and Maya Rehman, a Pakistani American Muslim girl struggling with her parents’ sudden separation. Former childhood best friends, they find themselves volunteered as a team by their mothers during a Ramadan “campaign iftar.” One canvassing adventure at a time, they grow closer despite Maya’s no-dating policy. Chapters alternate between Maya’s and Jamie’s first-person voices. The endearing, if somewhat clichéd, teens sweetly connect over similarities like divorced parents, and their activism will resonate with many. Jamie is sensitive, clumsy, and insecure; Maya is determined, sassy, a dash spoiled, and she swears freely. The novel covers timeless themes of teen activism and love-conquers-all along with election highs and lows, messy divorces, teen angst, bat mitzvah stress, social media gaffes, right-wing haters, friendship drama, and cultural misunderstandings, but the explicit advocacy at times interferes with an immersive reading experience and the text often feels repetitious. Maya’s mother is hijabi, and while Maya advocates against a hijab ban, she chooses not to wear hijab and actively wrestles with what it means to be an observant Muslim.

Best leave it at maybe so. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293704-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Featuring short, punchy chapters, engagingly flawed characters, and a plot that churns ever forward, this frothy confection...

AFTER HOURS

The stakes of a game of dares grow uncomfortably high for four teens.

The Waterside Café is as good a workplace as it is a fine dining experience. The clientele is classy, and the post-work game of Tips run by sleazy (but initially tolerable) manager Rico provides the young staff with biweekly opportunities to make extra cash on the side by fulfilling outrageous dares. The four protagonists of Kennedy’s debut—Isa, Xavi, Peter, and Finn—each have something to hide, and all four try to use Tips’ promises of financial independence and social capital to achieve their goals. Isa wants to leave her beauty-queen past behind, Xavi wants to attend fashion-design school in New York, Peter wants to become a chef (and win his stepsister Xavi’s heart), and Finn just wants to have fun. As the intensity of the summer’s dares increases, the four teens face ever steeper consequences for their choices, including a pregnancy scare, potential arrest for teen prostitution, and being framed as a burglar. An impressively efficient series of coincidences and schemes must be assembled in order to keep the stakes for these likable kids from becoming depressingly real.

Featuring short, punchy chapters, engagingly flawed characters, and a plot that churns ever forward, this frothy confection may not nourish, but it will certainly delight. (Fiction. 15-17)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3016-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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