Those overlooking its heroine will enjoy the plot’s new spin on the familiar tropes.

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BLACK KNIGHT

From the Witch World series , Vol. 2

Before new witch Jessie Ralle can get the hang of the parallel-world–hopping double life introduced in Witch World (2012), she’s tossed into a paranormal version of The Hunger Games.

In the normal world, Jessie prepares to start her freshman year at UCLA, while in the witch world, she deals with witch politics following her defeat of Syn. The mysterious Alchemist leads Jessie to believe Syn might not be as dead as presumed. Also strange is Jessie’s connection to a handsome, young jewel thief named Marc—she dreams of his heists. Suddenly, she’s abducted in the real world and taken to the Field, an ancient testing ground on which six selected witches lead teams in a sole-survivor-wins contest—and Marc’s on her team. While her real-world days are spent battling opponents and making alliances to keep her team alive, during the reprieves offered by her witch-world days, she trains for the Field and seeks answers about it. Many questions are left unanswered to lure readers toward the inevitable third book that the ending sets up. Jessie’s so unlikable (especially in her treatment of her boyfriend) and foolish (she constantly holds back from finishing off opponents who are trying to kill her, enabling them to regroup and try again) that readers will be baffled that so many characters instantly love her.

Those overlooking its heroine will enjoy the plot’s new spin on the familiar tropes. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6733-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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