An irreverent journey through despondency with some minor flaws.

THIS MIGHT HURT A BIT

An angry teen works out his issues.

Tomorrow will be the 1-year anniversary of Kirby’s worst day: the day his sister Melanie died. Since then Kirby has withdrawn from the world, letting his sorrow fester as he watches Die Hard over and over again. The only personal connections Kirby still maintains are his friendships with Jake and PJ. PJ is popular and likable; Jake, on the other hand, is “a real asshole.” The three boys get together for an evening of mischief, and things quickly go south. The next day at school Kirby struggles to avoid not just his own feelings about what happened, but also the school jocks looking for payback. The ensuing novel effectively externalizes Kirby’s emotional arc as he twists and turns to push himself forward. Kirby’s sullen anger could easily become repetitive, but the author cuts it with plenty of humor and a few moments of clarity, creating an engaging read. Less artfully drawn are the tertiary characters: Kirby’s parents and the school administrators are one-note obstacles for Kirby and his friends to move around but never truly engage with. In the end, Kirby achieves his presumed catharsis and readers will feel for him, but the story isn’t as rich as it could have been. PJ is the only character whose ethnicity is mentioned (he’s Puerto Rican); all others can be assumed white.

An irreverent journey through despondency with some minor flaws. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2717-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 28

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

Did you like this book?

more