Likable, well-rounded characters keep readers turning pages.

DONUTS AND OTHER PROCLAMATIONS OF LOVE

Oscar learns that life is a lot more complicated than frying donuts thanks to an unlikely romance, confronting the past, and dealing with heartache.

Desperate to be done with school in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Oscar is a determined senior with plans to one day operate the family’s Swedish food truck business and maybe even open his own cafe. When presented with an unusual opportunity to use his culinary skills to help prevent cafeteria food waste, he forms an unlikely friendship with academic all-star Lou. Though he resists at first, she becomes an integral part of Oscar’s life both in school and on the truck. The main characters are complex and well drawn, especially the wise and irresistible Farfar, Oscar’s Swedish paternal grandfather. Swedish-born Oscar has lived with Farfar since the age of 4, arriving in America after his father died; his mother had already left the family by then. Reck handles a grandfather-grandson conversation about condoms and consent with a deft hand, although the book contains mainly just PG–rated kissing scenes. He also addresses contemporary social justice activism, substance abuse, and Farfar’s coming-out story. Told in Oscar’s first-person voice, the plot drags a little, but a romance resolved and a moving show of support from friends-turned-family compensate. The inclusion of Swedish cultural elements is refreshing and adds interest. Most of the cast is presumed White.

Likable, well-rounded characters keep readers turning pages. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1611-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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The shelves are already crowded with teens-training-for-space stories; there’s no need to make room for this one.

THE FINAL SIX

From the Final Six series , Vol. 1

Teens become astronauts in record time for an inaugural space mission.

After losing his family to “the greatest flood Rome has ever known,” skilled white Italian swimmer Leo Danieli would never have expected that in his darkest moment he would be drafted by the European Space Agency to attend the International Space Training Camp, where teens will train to terraform and colonize Jupiter’s moon Europa for human settlement. California native Naomi Ardalan, a second-generation Iranian-American, has also been chosen for her expertise in science and technology. During a period of violent climate change worldwide, Earth’s governments are desperate to draft teens for a space mission for which they have only a few weeks in which to prepare. Twenty-four teen finalists, many orphaned by cataclysmic natural disasters, have been chosen from all over the world to compete for this space colonization mission. Warnings come to Leo and Naomi that there is a more sinister aspect to this mission, especially after things go tragically awry with other candidates during the training. The relationship that develops between Naomi and Leo feels forced, as if their meeting necessitates speedy deployment of a romantic cliché. The use of predictable plot devices, along with the fundamentally ludicrous premise, undermines any believability that would make a reader invest in such an elaborate space journey.

The shelves are already crowded with teens-training-for-space stories; there’s no need to make room for this one. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265894-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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