Gorgeous, compelling, and painful, though subtle as a brick—or a baby

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A long-lost great-aunt, a positive pregnancy test, and a road trip across England.

Hattie's friend and bad-boy crush, Reuben, is summering at his dad's place on the French Riviera. The white teen’s snark-filled email exchanges with Reuben never mention her terrifying secret: she’s pregnant, a consequence of that surprising night when Reuben fed Hattie a line about how no one else understood him like she did. Fate throws Hattie a lifeline for avoiding her own problems with a call about a great-aunt she'd never heard of. Gloria's not the sweet, kindly, sickly old lady of Hattie's imagination; she's a champagne-swilling, cigarillo-smoking, thrice-divorced former actress in the early stages of dementia. The odd couple sets off on a car journey through the landscape of Gloria's fading—and unhappy—memories. Despite references to Thelma and Louise reinforced by dark foreshadowing about cliffs, the road trip primarily serves as the setting for an internal journey. Through interludes told from Gloria's point of view, in which her fading recent memory gives way to revelations of her painful history, Hattie learns a family history packed with hard truths: white Gloria's romance with black Sam in a racist 1950s family; a violently abusive father; a pregnancy at 17. As their friendship grows, Hattie struggles with the decision she herself needs to make.

Gorgeous, compelling, and painful, though subtle as a brick—or a baby . (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2102-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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