Moral subtlety loses out to breathless pacing; the ending is derivative of Scott Westerfeld’s superior Uglies (2005).

READ REVIEW

POSSESSION

This debut dystopia succeeds at suspense and tension but fails at moral complexity.

Vi lives in the beige Goodlands, where good people wear required “oatmeal-colored shirts” and, by prohibition, never hug or touch. But Vi does touch and kiss her boyfriend Zenn, and she crosses forbidden borders and unplugs herself from mandatory brainwashing transmissions. She explains early on that “Goodies are walking paper dolls, devoid of personality—and brains” while authoritarian Thinkers “do the thinking so regular people won’t have to.” Unlike speculative fiction that successfully questions whether eliminating wars and providing adequate food for everyone might be worth losing cultural freedoms, this tale manages neither nuance nor ambiguity. Vi escapes from prison with hottie rebel Jag and travels to seek asylum, pursued by Thinkers of unknown loyalty, slowly realizing that she and Jag can control others. They lie to each other constantly, their supposedly deep love reading like simple sexual chemistry. Vi’s voice is sarcastic—“we were in the park after dark (gasp!)”—with random bits of teen syrup (Jag has “blueberry eyes”). Revelations come hard and fast but don’t feel meaningful, due to thin worldbuilding and sketchy details; in this society, how could Vi possibly understand a concept like “rights”?

Moral subtlety loses out to breathless pacing; the ending is derivative of Scott Westerfeld’s superior Uglies (2005). (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2125-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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