A fictional but realistic tale of how two New York City teens survived the unthinkable together.

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THE MEMORY OF THINGS

After the 9/11 attacks, a New York City high schooler takes in a traumatized teen girl suffering from temporary amnesia.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, white, 16-year-old Kyle Donohue flees from Stuyvesant High School in downtown Manhattan toward his home in Brooklyn Heights. While running across the Brooklyn Bridge, he spots a white girl covered in ash and wearing elaborate costume wings, so he makes a split-second decision to keep her safe. Kyle takes the scared "bird girl" to his apartment, where his uncle, who uses a wheelchair and is recovering from a spinal-cord injury, is the only person waiting. Kyle's dad is an NYPD officer who's working around the clock at ground zero, while his mother and younger sister are stuck at LAX, unable to return to New York. The bird girl can't remember much of anything, but as the days unfold, she begins to recover flashes of her memory and to become attached to sweet Kyle, who's clearly smitten. But they both know she'll eventually need to leave the bubble of security they've created. The author tells their story in alternating points of view, his in prose and hers in spare, erratically spaced verse that effectively communicates her disorientation. A love letter to the New Yorkers who rallied together, this is also an exploration of the intense bonds that form during a crisis. Detailed and well-researched, it's sure to make young readers curious about those unforgettable days after the twin towers fell.

A fictional but realistic tale of how two New York City teens survived the unthinkable together. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-09552-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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