Still, the magic of falling in love (some hot kissing scenes) and the challenges of difficult moral decisions are...

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THE HEIR AND THE SPARE

Evie Gray is an American freshman at Oxford University with a few unusual twists to her life story.

Before Evie’s mother died years before, she mapped out her daughter’s life and transmitted instructions to her in the form of letters that are delivered each year on her birthday, guiding her in the fulfillment of her ultimate destiny. Of course there are bumps along the way, principally in connection with the first boy she falls for at Oxford, who just happens to be Prince Edmund, in line for the English throne. In this debut novel inspired by the recent royal wedding, Albright gives her readers an engaging and plausible glimpse into the lives of well-connected college students. When Evie eventually realizes who Edmund is, she determines that she will not allow his royal status to interfere with her genuine feelings for him. Evie is a fun and funny undergrad, a little immature for her age, who makes all the blunders and suffers all the embarrassment any teen can identify with. The up-to-the-minute dialogue may quickly become anachronistic (“Ew, creeptastic much?” comments Evie on finding out that her bitchy rival Jax has hired a PI to delve into her past), and the English students’ speech in particular frequently feels only superficially English.

Still, the magic of falling in love (some hot kissing scenes) and the challenges of difficult moral decisions are well-portrayed and have timeless appeal. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4405-9010-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Merit Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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