A joyful story that hits all the right notes.

LIKE A LOVE SONG

A Brazilian American teen pop star hopes a fake relationship will turn her image around.

After a humiliating public breakup moments before winning an award, 17-year-old Natalie’s tearful breakdown becomes an embarrassing meme. To rebrand and fix her reputation, Natalie agrees to pretend to have a new boyfriend, and she signs a contract that sets her up for three months with up-and-coming British teen actor William Ainsley, who is White and Jewish. As she gets to know William, she unexpectedly starts falling for him. He’s sweet to her when the paparazzi are watching, but is it all an act? The romance is appropriately charming while the narrative also compellingly addresses the pressures of fame and social media. This entertaining debut seamlessly weaves in explorations of Latinx and immigrant identity: Especially heartfelt is Natalie’s struggle with not speaking enough Portuguese to connect with her grandparents in São Paulo. Natalie, who moved to the U.S. when she was 8, straightens her curly hair and shies away from her Brazilian nickname, Nati, since none of her classmates in the States could pronounce it properly. Her best friends, Pakistani American Padma and Brazilian American Brenda, two girls who are dating each other, provide a refreshingly supportive friendship, complete with delightful text message exchanges.

A joyful story that hits all the right notes. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-38207-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Underlined

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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