Lovers of self-consciously witty nihilist profundities will be thrilled; alas that the snark is mired in the stale trope of...

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AWAY WE GO

Intellectual boys' boarding school story meets near-future dystopia in this end-times tale.

Like the other 600,000 American children and teenagers with Peter Pan Virus, Noah attends a school—of sorts. The "recovery centers" are a cross between internment camps and underfunded classrooms. They're badly misnamed, as well, as nearly all PPV sufferers die in adolescence. Blocked from phone calls, the Internet, and outside contact, Noah finds solace in banter and existential despair, hiding in the toilet stall–turned-library that's the best his recovery center offers. When he transfers to Westing, the sole prep school for PPV kids, Noah finds an idyllic New England haven where students read Whitman while seeking their inner Michelangelo or Sappho. The students, however, are just the same as everywhere else: dying teenagers. Noah nurses his alcoholism tenderly while exchanging droll repartee with the object of his affection. No, not with his girlfriend, Alice, but with Zach, the extremely ill and, predictably, straight boy with whom Noah's enjoyed several tender hookups. Meanwhile, a meteor’s headed for Earth. Thin worldbuilding and confusing time shifts detract only slightly; the imminent apocalypse serves primarily to accelerate the claustrophobic immediacy of boarding school angst. Noah and his friends form loving, believably complex relationships, caroming from suicidal ideation to conspiracy theory to a quest for the sacred in mundane death.

Lovers of self-consciously witty nihilist profundities will be thrilled; alas that the snark is mired in the stale trope of tragic gay romance . (Dystopia. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-223855-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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Best leave it at maybe so.

YES NO MAYBE SO

Two 17-year-olds from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, work together on a campaign for a progressive state senate candidate in an unlikely love story.

Co-authors Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat, 2018, etc.) and Saeed (Bilal Cooks Daal, 2019, etc.) present Jamie Goldberg, a white Ashkenazi Jewish boy who suffers from being “painfully bad at anything girl-related,” and Maya Rehman, a Pakistani American Muslim girl struggling with her parents’ sudden separation. Former childhood best friends, they find themselves volunteered as a team by their mothers during a Ramadan “campaign iftar.” One canvassing adventure at a time, they grow closer despite Maya’s no-dating policy. Chapters alternate between Maya’s and Jamie’s first-person voices. The endearing, if somewhat clichéd, teens sweetly connect over similarities like divorced parents, and their activism will resonate with many. Jamie is sensitive, clumsy, and insecure; Maya is determined, sassy, a dash spoiled, and she swears freely. The novel covers timeless themes of teen activism and love-conquers-all along with election highs and lows, messy divorces, teen angst, bat mitzvah stress, social media gaffes, right-wing haters, friendship drama, and cultural misunderstandings, but the explicit advocacy at times interferes with an immersive reading experience and the text often feels repetitious. Maya’s mother is hijabi, and while Maya advocates against a hijab ban, she chooses not to wear hijab and actively wrestles with what it means to be an observant Muslim.

Best leave it at maybe so. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293704-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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