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

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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.

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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Best leave it at maybe so.

YES NO MAYBE SO

Two 17-year-olds from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, work together on a campaign for a progressive state senate candidate in an unlikely love story.

Co-authors Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat, 2018, etc.) and Saeed (Bilal Cooks Daal, 2019, etc.) present Jamie Goldberg, a white Ashkenazi Jewish boy who suffers from being “painfully bad at anything girl-related,” and Maya Rehman, a Pakistani American Muslim girl struggling with her parents’ sudden separation. Former childhood best friends, they find themselves volunteered as a team by their mothers during a Ramadan “campaign iftar.” One canvassing adventure at a time, they grow closer despite Maya’s no-dating policy. Chapters alternate between Maya’s and Jamie’s first-person voices. The endearing, if somewhat clichéd, teens sweetly connect over similarities like divorced parents, and their activism will resonate with many. Jamie is sensitive, clumsy, and insecure; Maya is determined, sassy, a dash spoiled, and she swears freely. The novel covers timeless themes of teen activism and love-conquers-all along with election highs and lows, messy divorces, teen angst, bat mitzvah stress, social media gaffes, right-wing haters, friendship drama, and cultural misunderstandings, but the explicit advocacy at times interferes with an immersive reading experience and the text often feels repetitious. Maya’s mother is hijabi, and while Maya advocates against a hijab ban, she chooses not to wear hijab and actively wrestles with what it means to be an observant Muslim.

Best leave it at maybe so. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293704-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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