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THE BEAUTY TRIALS

From the Belles series

A reflective and gripping return to an imaginative world.

Now that Regent Queen Sophia is locked up, her sister, Queen Charlotte, decides to revive an ancient tradition: the Beauty Trials, a deadly competition to be the next Queen of Orléans.

This stand-alone fantasy picks up three years after the events of The Everlasting Rose (2019), with the point of view shifting from Camille to her spirited sister Edel. The Belles, who have magical arcana powers and a range of skin tones, are expected to provide beautifying services to the gray-skinned, red-eyed Gris. However, Sophia and her lackeys have little regard for the Belles, seeing them as property to be auctioned off. Having Sophia imprisoned is not enough; the next queen of Orléans should be committed to freeing the Belles from servitude and bloodletting for their arcana. When Queen Charlotte announces the Beauty Trials—a lethal contest that will allow the Goddess of Beauty to choose Sophia’s successor—Edel enters, hoping she can win and liberate the Belles. Edel is tenacious and brave, but the line between bravery and foolishness is fine. Both Camille and Edel’s love interest, Gaelle, urge her to rein in her outspoken ways and try to charm others during the competition. An intriguing relationship develops between Edel and the Trials’ Gamekeeper Quentin, tempting her into a love triangle. This atmospheric novel delves into social and political issues, although the worldbuilding feels less deliberate than in previous entries. The plot intensifies quickly, with dangerous tasks and an earthshaking twist that leaves Edel scrambling.

A reflective and gripping return to an imaginative world. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-368-04692-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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