Another smart, savage winner from the author of The Awesome (2015)

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DEAD LITTLE MEAN GIRL

What begins as a dark comedy, with a viciously cruel cheerleader found dead (clad only in a coconut-shell bra and a grass miniskirt), takes a surprise flashback turn into raw emotional honesty.

High school junior Emma is totally fine with her divorced mother’s newly discovered bisexuality, but why does her mom’s new girlfriend have to have such a complete hellbeast of a daughter? Quinn’s not mean in the sense of petty or snarky but in the sense of “full-throttle mega-mean girl with acid spit and laser eyes.” A hot, popular, white cheerleader, Quinn happily destroys lives; her homophobic, racist, fatphobic vitriol is the least of her nastiness. Emma—a fat, studious, white fan of comics and Doctor Who—wants to keep things civil for the sake of her mom and Quinn’s, but she sees only two options: being complicit in Quinn’s destructive behavior or becoming its prime target. Emma’s blossoming in the face of her semistepsister’s spite seems at first to be a straight-up Heathers-style bitch-clique comedy, but Quinn’s death shocks her into some painful introspection. Without ever excusing Quinn’s (or Emma’s) sins, Darrow’s dark novel forces its readers to see beyond character cliché. The macabre black humor is spot-on, while the subverted tropes rework edgy nihilism into a sniffle-inducing recognition of humanity.

Another smart, savage winner from the author of The Awesome (2015) . (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-373-21241-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure

CITY OF LOST SOULS

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 5

What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift.

Clary's long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace's foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can't carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary's continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the "million little paper cuts" of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips ("all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking").

Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure . (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1686-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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