Imperfect but empowering.

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AMELIA WESTLAKE WAS NEVER HERE

Opposites attract in this story of pranks, justice, and hate-to-love romance.

Harriet Price and Will Everhart feel like they’re worlds apart despite being in the same year at the same prestigious girls’ private school. Harriet is well-off, a prefect, and a tennis champion obsessed with not rocking the boat. Will is fiery and rebellious, a middle-class student who resents the establishment. When they witness a coach yet again sexually harassing students, however, the duo surprise themselves and decide to team up to take action. Working secretly under the pseudonym Amelia Westlake, the pair starts with a series of school newspaper comics satirizing the school’s sexism and general complicity. They build momentum with larger-scale pranks that further their message, growing closer as they do so. As their hoax grows bigger and bigger, the two must decide what they’re willing to risk—friendships, girlfriends, expulsion—to further the legend of Amelia Westlake (and their relationship). Harriet’s and Will’s characterizations sometimes fall flat, and their alternating first-person narrations sound less distinct than might be anticipated. Their romance is well-paced and satisfying. Emotional abuse, heterosexism, and racism are all touched upon in the narrative but are secondary to the skewering of sexism and institutional hypocrisy. The majority of characters are white, although a prominent secondary character is first-generation Vietnamese-Australian.

Imperfect but empowering. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45066-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling.

LEGENDBORN

From the Legendborn series , Vol. 1

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4160-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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