Pensive teen readers might appreciate the book’s philosophical questions about the concept of advaita, the recognition of...

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STRANGE GIRL

An enigmatic new arrival turns the life of a high school rocker upside down.

When beautiful, mysterious Aja arrives in Fred’s town, he is intrigued, quickly falling in love with her and her strange ways. Referred to in her native Brazil as “Pequena Maga,” or “Little Magician,” Aja has the whole town gossiping about her special abilities, and after witnessing the miraculous recovery of a friend while in Aja’s presence, Fred begins to believe, too. Enthralled and protective, Fred spends much of his time shielding Aja from a snooping reporter and the scrutiny of the town; however, the stakes never seem high, and the book lacks tension. With phrases such as “she’s a looker” and “swinging chick,” both Fred’s narration and the dialogue sound dated and result in an inauthentic teen voice. Perhaps to compensate for this weakness, the book name-drops pop-culture references like The Walking Dead and Jay Z and 50 Cent. Pike gamely attempts to address hot-button issues like sexuality and race, but the discussions around these topics are both obvious and didactic. On the issue of race, the book is regressive and falls back on negative tropes by turning a significant black character into the Magical Negro.

Pensive teen readers might appreciate the book’s philosophical questions about the concept of advaita, the recognition of one’s “true self,” but this work better suits Pike’s original fans—fans who are far removed from the teenage experience. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5059-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide To Murder series , Vol. 1

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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