Most intriguing and provocative.

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STATE OF GRACE

Would people truly be happy if they could return to the Garden of Eden before the Fall? A girl lives blissfully within such a world, convinced she and everything else was created by Dot, her beloved deity.

Wren and her friends frolic exactly as they wish in their state of perfect innocence. They think nothing of going nude, and they enjoy themselves splashing in the beautiful lagoon and “hooking up” whenever and with whomever they wish. They live according to whim, plucking and eating the abundant fruit that grows everywhere. They follow the Books of Dot and strive to be “dotly.” They don’t even know unpleasant words, adding “pre” to a pleasant word instead: if someone is nervous, they call it “precalm.” When a boy from an outside world that shouldn’t exist breaks into theirs, Wren and her friend Blaze, an unbeliever, try to hide him. Meanwhile, Gil, a fanatic who claims to talk with Dot, begins a campaign against undotliness. As Wren learns more, she reluctantly begins to doubt her faith. Badger’s religious satire is a gutsy one. Nominally a near-future science-fiction story, its examination of the effects of religion, both positive and negative, dominates the narrative. If the book’s resolution seems a bit forced, the exploration of what constitutes bliss—and what does not—makes everything worth it.

Most intriguing and provocative. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63079-015-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Switch/Capstone

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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