Simple prose, sentimental, with sure-fire YA appeal: less contrived than most of Steel’s work (Answered Prayers, 2002),...

JOHNNY ANGEL

Prom night crash kills favorite son.

High-school senior Johnny Peterson was perfect in every way: kind, bright, handsome, tall, athletic, college-bound, responsible, brave, strong, and true. Yet a dreadful fate awaited this teenaged paragon: a convertible full of rowdy football players forced him in front of oncoming traffic on a southern California highway. His death was a terrible shock and so unfair (as Steel points out several times). Johnny wasn’t drunk or high, and perhaps his quick reactions in those final terrible seconds saved everyone else who was with him. Oh, how will those who knew him well ever come to terms with their shock and grief, and find closure? Well, luckily, it’s not long before Johnny returns in angelic guise to not only comfort his stricken family, but help them solve all their problems. And they have so many problems, beginning with Johnny’s younger brother Bobby, completely mute and withdrawn into a lonely world of his own since the car accident five years ago that turned his guilt-ridden father Jim into a taciturn alcoholic. Shortly after Johnny’s death, his mother Alice vomits blood and is taken, unconscious, to the hospital, where she is diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. That’s when Johnny appears, looking oh-so-real, to explain that people who die suddenly are sometimes allowed to return to help the living. He gently points out that his sister, the equally athletic Charlotte, never got enough attention. Could Alice persuade Jim to attend her games? She doubts it, but, lo and behold, morose Jim is now a changed man, 12-stepping his way to recovery. Bobby is visited by his dead brother, too, and starts talking at last. But can Johnny accept that his girlfriend Rebecca is now free to love another? Yes, though his heart is breaking.

Simple prose, sentimental, with sure-fire YA appeal: less contrived than most of Steel’s work (Answered Prayers, 2002), etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-33549-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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