In spite of a few flaws, readers will eagerly await the next installment.

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TAKEN

From the Taken series , Vol. 1

Debut author Bowman takes readers on a suspenseful trek through a dystopian landscape.

Gray has reached the age of 17 in a primitive town that’s defined by what happens to boys on their 18th birthdays: They are Heisted away, never to return. Gray is frustrated by the community’s calm, resigned acceptance of the boys’ shocking fate, so after his brother Blaine’s Heist, he determines to go over the massive wall that contains the town to search for the explanation for their grim existence. Unexpectedly, his almost-a-girlfriend Emma follows him. On the other side of the wall, they are both captured—or possibly befriended—by the Franconian Order, which runs the modern, water-starved city of Taem. The story they are told is quickly contradicted by other information they discover, leading to the pressing need to identify possible helpers who might oppose the brutal followers of Frank or the rebels (including attractive Bree) who operate outside the city. The story is told in Gray’s first-person narration, with occasional conveniently found documents to supplement back story that he can’t provide. While suspense is often palpable, other times, plot elements don’t fully add up—the Heists are conducted with helicopters (that no one sees because they’ve been drugged), and Emma remains safe but unfaithful in Taem after Gray escapes—diminishing the impact for discerning readers.

In spite of a few flaws, readers will eagerly await the next installment. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)

Pub Date: April 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-211726-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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