It’s telling that the most-uttered word is filler: "um." Skip it.

EVERYDAY MAGIC

The daughter of a Hollywood director juggles her real feelings for a charming English aristocrat and a forced publicity-stunt romance with a movie star.

In Albright’s companion novel to her royals-inspired romance, The Heir and the Spare (2015), white teen Maggie McKendrick is in Scotland for the summer during her cruel father’s latest movie shoot. She has a meet-cute with Preston, a handsome, white Oxford student vacationing at a family estate (readers of the first book will remember he’s Prince Edmund’s best mate), but their blossoming romance takes a back seat to Maggie’s family troubles. Not only does Maggie’s mother finally file for divorce, but her father cuts Maggie off financially for deciding to attend a British fashion institute instead of UCLA. While she’s at design school, Maggie’s egomaniacal father forces her to date his flailing movie’s white it-boy star, Ben, for publicity’s sake, or else he’ll out Ben and leave Maggie’s mother with nothing. If this sounds clichéd, that’s because it is—as is almost everything in this poorly executed romance. The voice is clunky and anachronistic (what 18-to-20-year-olds say "jeez," "crap," "jerk face"?); the British slang laughably false (particularly for posh, titled characters); the substantial themes (physical and emotional abuse, depression) barely explored; and the characterization underdeveloped. Maggie is simply too naïve and immature to be believable as a young woman raised in Hollywood.

It’s telling that the most-uttered word is filler: "um." Skip it. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4405-9873-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Merit Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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

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  • 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

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