Less a bold rebellion, more a boring bureaucracy, albeit with a strong, doomed female protagonist.

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STAR WARS: QUEEN'S SHADOW

A former queen plays politics to guide the galaxy’s future in this Star Wars novel.

After four years as Naboo’s Queen Amidala, Padmé Amidala Naberrie retires…to become a senator of the galactic Republic. Accompanied by new handmaidens—bodyguards/body doubles—to Coruscant, she tries to fight slavery (and find young Anakin Skywalker), avoid assassination, restore her public image, and retain her idealism. Tasked with reviving a main character from the often critically and popularly reviled prequels, Johnston (That Inevitable Victorian Thing, 2017, etc.) explores the diverse settings, delights in the alien cultures, and even expands the romantic possibilities to include same-sex relationships. Padmé and her handmaidens are assumed white; other humanoids' races are only noted when not white. The various species of Star Wars appear here but only as background characters. Readers without encyclopedic Star Wars knowledge receive name-dropping and cross-referencing rather than character development, while critics of Episodes I through III may still reject this interlude’s earnest explanations for the cinematic sources’ flaws, which are reproduced here—too much politicking, not enough passion. Padmé is a potent symbol but remains a flat character, restricted by her political role, her ornate, excessively described costuming, and her circumscribed cinematic fate. Sabé, her former but steadfast handmaid, has more depth but regrettably fewer chapters.

Less a bold rebellion, more a boring bureaucracy, albeit with a strong, doomed female protagonist. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02425-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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