For romantics of all ages, especially those who seldom see themselves in lead roles.

HAPPILY EVER AFTERS

A young writer discovers that the best love stories are often unscripted.

Tessa Johnson is a 16-year-old girl who recently moved to Long Beach, California, with her White mom, Black dad, and brother, Miles, who has cerebral palsy and cognitive delays. Tessa, who lives with anxiety, writes romance stories but only shows her work to her best friend, Caroline. To Tessa’s dismay, however, her new arts school requires students to share their work for group critique, triggering the worst writer’s block of her life. Caroline concocts a plan to jump-start her inspiration by engineering classic romance scenarios for Tessa in real life. Tessa has her ideal boy in mind, but an unexpected connection to Sam, her sweet neighbor and friend, brings a major plot twist. Tessa questions whether the solution she actually needs is the one she initially sought. Bryant’s writing suits both young adult and more mature romance genres, as it organically addresses matters related to race, disability, family dynamics, peer relations, and societal stigma. At the same time, it delivers the captivating, complicated, angst-y, and beautiful love story of a teenage girl trying to grow into and embrace herself. The diverse cast of characters and the fullness of the protagonist’s voice, along with her well-rounded familial, platonic, and romantic relationships, will speak to many readers.

For romantics of all ages, especially those who seldom see themselves in lead roles. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298283-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A resounding success.

CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.

MIDNIGHT SUN

From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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