An effective two-for-one romance.

WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY

Two young women in different centuries balance creativity and love.

Michaela Dunn hopes to attend Winslow College of Fine Arts, the same institution as her late father, an English professor who died when she was very young. A poetry workshop weekend at the college may be the foot in the door Michaela needs. When her stepfather balks at the workshop’s exorbitant enrollment fee, Michaela pins her hopes on winning a local poetry competition hosted by Winslow, one revolving around the town’s fabled whaler-poet Capt. Benjamin Churchill. In researching the captain’s life, Michaela discovers the journal of Leta Townsend, his would-be lover. The novel toggles between Leta in 1862 and Michaela in the present day as they balance their artistic ambitions against engaging love triangles. That’s right, there are two plucky heroines and four handsome hunks in this sweeping romance—and the author successfully juggles them all. The narrative effectively balances big, swoonworthy moments against smart character work, giving characters just enough shading and fleshing out the nooks and crannies of the sleepy Massachusetts town. The dual narratives bounce off each other well, handing off storylines at just the right moment to create suspense, warmth, and romantic pangs. Michaela, Leta, and their romantic suitors are all presumed White.

An effective two-for-one romance. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6820-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Running Press Teens

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre.

SHATTER ME

A dystopic thriller joins the crowded shelves but doesn't distinguish itself.

Juliette was torn from her home and thrown into an asylum by The Reestablishment, a militaristic regime in control since an environmental catastrophe left society in ruins. Juliette’s journal holds her tortured thoughts in an attempt to repress memories of the horrific act that landed her in a cell. Mysteriously, Juliette’s touch kills. After months of isolation, her captors suddenly give her a cellmate—Adam, a drop-dead gorgeous guy. Adam, it turns out, is immune to her deadly touch. Unfortunately, he’s a soldier under orders from Warner, a power-hungry 19-year-old. But Adam belongs to a resistance movement; he helps Juliette escape to their stronghold, where she finds that she’s not the only one with superhuman abilities. The ending falls flat as the plot devolves into comic-book territory. Fast-paced action scenes convey imminent danger vividly, but there’s little sense of a broader world here. Overreliance on metaphor to express Juliette’s jaw-dropping surprise wears thin: “My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps. My eyebrows are dangling from the ceiling.” For all of her independence and superpowers, Juliette never moves beyond her role as a pawn in someone else’s schemes.

Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren't yet sick of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-208548-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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