Emotionally satisfying dystopia with a generous helping of forno.



An alluring adventure in a future without food.

Thalia’s grandparents were farmers, but climate change and war have wreaked havoc on food supplies. Now, nobody farms, and nobody eats. Everyone drinks the nutritional beverage Synthamil, provided by megacorporation One World. Regular inoculations containing benzodiazepines and something unexplained that Thalia’s mother invented suppress hunger, sexuality and moods. Talking about food—“forno,” or food porno—is forbidden. But Thalia’s stomach is growling: She’s not supposed to be, but she’s hungry. Leaving behind her pristine, hologram-landscaped neighborhood, she finds (and falls for) Basil, a boy in the outskirts who’s created a machine to generate food aromas. Swain’s romantic food descriptions trounce the dryly presented benefits of this society (there’s supposedly no starvation or crime, which isn’t true but also hardly seems to matter stacked against juicy fantasies of roast chicken and french fries). Thalia’s brown-skinned, but privilege here is all about class; being a computer-hacking “privy” herself, Thalia’s shocked that an underclass lives in poverty and that desperate people from all classes are so hungry they’re eating dirt. Thalia and Basil’s activism with underground networks gets them labeled by One World as outlaw terrorists; they run away and stumble into a cultlike secret community that holds disturbing ties to the city. Despite some loose worldbuilding and predictability, this is a page-turner that wants a sequel.

Emotionally satisfying dystopia with a generous helping of forno. (Dystopian romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-02829-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.


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.


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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