Not a must-have.



A young woman with the ability to see auras, seeking her mother’s freedom, discovers that with great power comes even greater danger in Schaumberg’s steampunk-lite, historical debut.

White, 16-year-old Avery Kohl’s life has steadily unraveled since the day her mother was imprisoned in an asylum called the Temple of Mind Balance Studies—the titular Tombs—three years ago. Thrown with her father into poverty that requires Avery to work as a welder, Avery is terrified that she has inherited her mother’s visions and affliction; now, after a bizarre explosion at the ironworks, Avery’s visions become impossible to ignore. With help from a diverse secondary cast including the black, formerly enslaved Khan (sadly exoticized—a literal “magical Negro”) and a troupe of Romani travelers, Avery sets out to embrace her power as an aura healer (someone who can see and manipulate living energy and emotions) and free her mother from the clutches of a corrupt and treacherous scientist. Schaumberg has crafted a rich and gritty 1880s New York while infusing the historical with enough of the speculative to land it just this side of steampunk. The result falls unfortunately flat, however, with plot-stalling lags in exposition, underdeveloped plotlines and character motivations, and a disappointing lack of follow-through on efforts at representation of disability and racial diversity. The gratuitous appearances of the slur “Gypsy,” while historically relevant, emphasize the conspicuous absence of any other contemporaneously common racial slurs in the text.

Not a must-have. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265644-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.


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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Best leave it at 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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