An exciting and nuanced portrayal of the terror of vulnerability and the exalted freedom of authenticity.

THE ART OF ESCAPING

Mattie has a few obsessions—jazz records, Star Trek, vintage dresses—but not even her best friend, Stella, knows about the one that propels her to the home of Miyu Miyake: her desire to learn how to pick locks and escape from straitjackets.

Escapology legend Akiko Miyake came from Japan, settling in Rhode Island before she died in a plane crash, leaving her tools and methods with her daughter. Miyu is a gruff 30-something who would much prefer to be secluded in her crumbling home than train the relentlessly persistent white teenager who turns up uninvited. Mattie keeps meeting the outrageous demands of her curmudgeonly mentor, including being pushed from her private comfort zone into public performance the summer before senior year. Will, a white basketball player with a secret, finds himself pulled into Mattie’s orbit. A seemingly mismatched friendship develops between the two, and within their growing trust, they find the space to express their genuine selves. Stella, who is white, returns from a prestigious academic summer program to discover, and fully embrace, this radically bold version of Mattie. She ushers 14-year-old Azorean-American boy genius Frankie Campos into the mix, and the four become an inseparable crew, offering each other the space they need to be their overachieving, weird, or queer true selves.

An exciting and nuanced portrayal of the terror of vulnerability and the exalted freedom of authenticity. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944995-65-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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