A new take on a timeless theme—it gets better.

FIFTEEN POINT NINE

A Canadian teen copes with bullying and instability at home and discovers life-affirming friendship in Dobbie’s YA debut.

The daily indignities and tortures of social exile shape a woefully recognizable high school experience far more even than classes or prom. Add to the vile bullying at school an unstable, neglectful mother, who uses alcohol and hoarding as emotional crutches, at home, and you get Aggie Murphy’s life. Dejected and exhausted, at the mercy of her popular tormenters and her spiraling mother, Aggie comes up with a plan to record and reveal her bullies’ depravity to everyone, and she invites other outcasts to join her in her revenge. But when a fellow outcast escapes her own torment by suicide, Aggie’s coping becomes increasingly desperate and destructive as the stakes rise higher and higher. Dobbie offers a glimpse into the paradoxical bubble of normalcy that can be built around everyday suffering, until of course the bubble bursts. The deftly handled complexities of mental illness, trauma, and self-harm provide a complicated emotional landscape, enrichened by characters’ resilience and humor. Heavy-handed representation of adult imperfections nonetheless paired with the directive to “tell an adult” chips away at authenticity, moving uncomfortably close to victim-blaming; likewise, a troubling framing of fatness and weight loss detract from overall affirming characterization. All characters are assumed white, with the result that racially motivated bullying does not appear.

A new take on a timeless theme—it gets better. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77086-523-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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