Measured, mesmerizing, masterful.

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SALT

A teen boy tries to balance caring for his family, making a life for himself, and saving the world in Moskowitz’s (Gena/Finn, 2016, etc.) thoughtful seafaring adventure.

Indi knows his family is odd. Four white siblings living alone on a rickety boat after their parents’ disappearances would be strange enough, but they are also “sicarios”—monster hunters like their parents before them. The quartet sails the Mediterranean, speaking an amalgam of Romance languages mixed with Greek and Arabic, risking their lives to kill nightmarish creatures that live in the water and prey on humans, and surviving as best they can. As his eldest sister leads them on an impossible revenge mission to find the legendary monster they believe killed their parents, Indi longs for a life of less danger for his siblings and more normalcy for himself. But after forming an unexpected connection with a vulpine Tunisian female pirate, Indi begins to question in earnest if he actually belongs in this world. Existential pensiveness and heart-stopping action (on monster-infested high seas no less) are a rare, successfully developed duo. Indi’s life is dangerous sea creatures one moment, anxious contemplation the next, and the constancy of his siblings through it all. Moskowitz immerses readers in Indi’s perspective, where electrocuting monsters is second nature and stepping onto dry land seems alien, exploring the complicated spaces between family, self, and duty.

Measured, mesmerizing, masterful. (Magical realism. 14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3151-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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Best leave it at maybe so.

YES NO 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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