Very, very good.

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THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS

A bipolar teen pushes her washed-up magician father toward one last redemptive deception.

Ten years ago, Ellie Dante’s father ruined his career when he flubbed a trick called the Truck Drop on national TV. Not long after, Ellie’s mother died by suicide. Ellie and her dad fled to Fort Wayne, Indiana, eking out a living performing magic at birthday parties and weddings. But bookings have dwindled and they can’t make lot rent for their RV or afford the medications for Ellie’s bipolar disorder or her dad’s heart condition. They’ve resorted to using their sleight-of-hand talents to commit petty theft when Ellie gets the offer that might save them: Re-create the Truck Drop, live from Hollywood, for a pile of cash. Ellie has to figure out how to get them across the country, prise the necessary props out of a reclusive millionaire’s hands, persuade her father to overcome his demons, and pull off the trick, all the while battling the mounting effects of her lack of medication. Ellie is a talented magician herself but is afraid of the effect performing has on her brain, and the trip itself takes a toll. Garvin’s (Symptoms of Being Human, 2016) portrayal of Ellie’s bipolar experience is exceptional; the world of magic is also superbly rendered. The story lags a bit in the middle, but its strengths more than make up for its shortcomings. All main characters are white.

Very, very good. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-238289-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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